The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed an initial $75 million toward a new network of disease surveillance sites in developing countries.

The foundation said yesterday that the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance Network (CHAMPS) will gather “better data, and faster” about incidence of disease epidemics, with the goal of preventing childhood mortality.

CHAMPS aims to gather more accurate data about how, where and why children are dying in developing countries, over a “minimum twenty-year” period—during which time the network will also take a “long-term approach” to information management, laboratory infrastructure, and workforce capacity.

The foundation said the network could also mobilize quickly in the event of an epidemic—as occurred last year in Nigeria, where the national polio program's Emergency Operations Center was repurposed following the outbreak of Ebola.

“The world needs better, more timely public health data not only to prepare for the next epidemic, but to save children's lives now,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement. “Over the past 15 years, deaths of children in developing countries have been dramatically reduced, but to continue that trend for the next 15 years, we need more definitive data about where and why children are dying. This will also better position us to respond to other diseases that may turn into an epidemic.”

The Emory Global Health Institute (EGHI), which houses the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), will be a lead partner in CHAMPS. EGHI said it will collaborate on the network with the Public Health Informatics Institute, a program of the Task Force for Global Health, and Deloitte Consulting LLP.

In addition, CHAMPS will collaborate with ISGlobal/Hospital Clinic-University of Barcelona in developing and applying state-of-the-art tissue sampling and diagnostic procedures, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide technical assistance with laboratory infrastructure.

CHAMPS will establish sites with trained staff and technology in areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that have seen high childhood mortality rates while lacking sufficient public health infrastructure. The network will be based initially at six sites, but eventually could be expanded to as many as 20 sites, EGHI said in a separate statement.

“The goal is to provide data that impact development of policy, setting of priorities for research, and provision of needed medicines and vaccines,” EGHI stated.

As the network is established, it would be gradually transferred to local governments and national public health institutes with the help of IANPHI, as would other aspects of prevention and clinical care, EGHI added. The Gates Foundation has provided funding support for IANPHI through EGHI since 2005.

CHAMPS will help ensure that the right vaccines and treatments are delivered to the people who need them most and that the global health community invests in crucial new drugs and health tools,” the foundation stated.

The foundation announced creation of the network at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Partners Forum, held this week in Seattle.

“Strong networks such as CHAMPS will help us find, stop, and prevent outbreaks and will not only save children in Africa and Asia, but will help to make the world a safer, healthier place for everyone,” added CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “A disease threat anywhere is a threat everywhere.”

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