Global Disease Fighters: International Partnership Bolsters Disease Surveillance

In the global fight against infectious disease threats, a strong first line of defense is critical. Yet in much of the developing world, community health officials and epidemiologists are under-prepared for widespread public health emergencies.

Through a partnership with the CDC Foundation, Johnson & Johnson is supporting an effort to change that.

In Uganda, where outbreaks of Ebola and other deadly threats in the past decade have exposed gaps in the nation’s disease surveillance network, a CDC Foundation program helped strengthen health security in Uganda through enhanced workforce development efforts supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since February 2018, the program has enabled training in 19 districts in Uganda—four more districts than originally projected—reaching more than 1,650 professional and community health workers with an enhanced, integrated curriculum focused on strengthening emergency response, front-line field epidemiology and surveillance training.

As the chief medical officer for Johnson & Johnson, Dr. Alan Tennenberg has been closely involved with the program from the start. Having developed a connection to Uganda through the Global Health Security Agenda, a multi-nation partnership of over 64 nations, international organizations and non-governmental stakeholders dedicated to strengthening global health security, Tennenberg said that developing effective front-line surveillance is critical to the country’s long-term health and stability. Private-sector organizations with a global footprint like Johnson & Johnson are well-positioned to work with CDC through the CDC Foundation to help the government of Uganda shore up gaps in the country’s disease surveillance network.

Alan Tennenberg, Chief Medical Officer, Johnson & Johnson

“We’re good at business planning, we’re good at process management, and we’re good at tracking outcomes,” Tennenberg said. “So we think it’s important to augment those skills on the government side [in Uganda] through trainings.”

Support from Johnson & Johnson to the CDC Foundation has allowed CDC working through the Ugandan Ministry of Health to implement sustainable district-level, train-the-trainer courses, as well as cascade training going out to local health facilities. Already these trainings have resulted in increased monthly and weekly disease surveillance reporting.

The main goal of the effort, Tennenberg said, is to help CDC fortify Uganda’s ability to detect and prevent infectious diseases by improving disease reporting techniques, bolstering case management skills and filling gaps in infection prevention and control practices. By improving electronic lab sample tracking and developing a stronger network of health data reporting, Johnson & Johnson is among the national and international stakeholders working with CDC in Uganda to build strong surveillance and response systems to protect people from disease threats. After a series of high-profile infectious disease outbreaks in recent years, Tennenberg said, global health security is an issue that has become more critical in the business world.

Global emergencies like Ebola and Zika have really brought the point home to company leaders. Often it’s not too difficult to get CEOs interested in global health security because they understand how an emergency in one part of the world affects their business overall.

“Global emergencies like Ebola and Zika have really brought the point home to company leaders,” Tennenberg said. “Often it’s not too difficult to get CEOs interested in global health security because they understand how an emergency in one part of the world affects their business overall.”

In today’s interconnected world, Tennenberg said, the ability to partner with organizations like the CDC Foundation and CDC for greater impact is invaluable in securing a safer, healthier world for people everywhere. Through its grant to the CDC Foundation, Johnson & Johnson has amplified its impact in Uganda by helping extend CDC’s well-established scientific expertise.

“CDC’s international presence and deep expertise in helping countries develop global health security capabilities are critical,” Tennenberg said. “They are a natural and important partner for us.”


CDC plays a leading role in advancing the Global Health Security Agenda for the United States to accelerate progress toward achievement of the International Health Regulations and strengthen global public health capacity within 31 countries and the Caribbean. The CDC Foundation has joined with CDC’s Center for Global Health to extend the reach and leverage the impact of CDC’s investments in six countries where there are public health resource gaps including Haiti, India, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Vietnam. Learn more.

Photos: © David Snyder/CDC Foundation (Ebola)