Activities by strategy
Strategy 1 - Harmonisation of health data needs and development of adequate surveillance systems
Strategy 2 - Development of relevant computer applications
Strategy 3 - Adaptation of field epidemiology and public health surveillance training programmes to local and regional needs
Strategy 4 - Promoting the use of e-mail, and opening the network to new clients, new services and other networks
Strategy 5 - Publications
Strategy 4 - Promoting the use of e-mail, opening the network to new partners, new services and other networks
PacNet and Telehealth │ LabNet - A network of laboratories │ EpiNet, PPHSN response to outbreaks
PacNet and Telehealth
PacNet - Communication tool and Early Warning System
Following an initial focus on harmonising data requirements, network members gave a top priority to the surveillance of outbreaks of communicable diseases, with special concern for emerging and re-emerging diseases. A proposal for a regional early warning system was adopted at the Pacific Islands Meeting on Public Health Surveillance, targeting five diseases: dengue, measles, influenza (all three perhaps fitting a "fever surveillance" syndromic approach) cholera, and acute haemorrhagic conjunctivitis. However it was agreed that a regional early warning system (EWS) should be able to identify any outbreak with potential regional significance.
Efficient dissemination of health information can be supported by recent advances in communication and information technology. These have evolved rapidly in the Pacific, as elsewhere. Using electronic mail has already generated savings in many Pacific islands, by reducing expensive phone calls and fax messages. Provided their use is properly planned, resources such as the Internet and other telecommunication networks (e.g., PEACESAT, PACTOK), provide an invaluable opportunity to improve health information networks.
From the outset, the concept of an e-mail -supported disease surveillance network for the Pacific, inspired by the ProMED model, was one of the key objectives of the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Working Group. This dream became reality when, in mid-April 1997, an e-mail (and fax) listserver became operational at the Community Health Programme of the SPC. This was the birth of the PacNet.
The primary purpose of PacNet is to implement an early warning system, by sharing timely information on outbreaks of disease so that others in the Pacific might take appropriate action when a threat has been identified. PacNet is dedicated to networking individuals, information, and potential resources, and is a communication tool intended to promote "information for action".
The PacNet list is currently moderated for the sole function of including new members, and to control they are health professionals, health related-scientists and health-related decision makers: doctors, medical officers, nurses, biologists, medical statisticians, laboratory specialists, epidemiologists, paramedics, public health decision makers, etc. The list moderator is currently the PPHSN-CB focal point. Additionally to membership management, administrator's tasks include to make sure important messages are sent without any problem to Pacific Island health professionals members of PacNet. PacNet moderators are all the experts that are members of PacNet.
As from the beginning of 1998, PacNet can also be accessed through the Internet at the SPC web-site. Only PacNet members are able to access PacNet information and archives, using individual passwords.
A step towards confidentiality: PacNet-restricted
To allow a not-yet verified information on outbreaks to be ciculated as early as possible amongst the Pacific Island Departments or Ministries of Health and some key allied members of the PPHSN, a list called "PacNet-restricted" was launched in December 2000 on the model of WHO Outbreak Verification list. PacNet-restricted has been set up following discussions with, and recommendations by, the Heads of Health of the Pacific Islands countries and territories (PICTs) and the Inaugural Meeting of the Public health laboratory network of the PPHSN. The aim of this restricted list is to preserve timely alert and preparedness regarding outbreaks possibly threatening the Pacific Islands, together with a higher degree of confidentiality (as compared to messages going straight on PacNet).
The list comprises of a sub-set of PacNet members: (i) all having either decision-making influence and responsibilities within the PICTs' Ministries and Departments of Health or (ii) being among the 12 individuals members of the PPHSN-CB.
PacNet-restricted is devoted to non-verified outbreak alert messages. It means that the information on PacNet-restricted is not yet confirmed by a proper/specific diagnosis (usually from a public health laboratory). That's what also makes this information sensitive from a political perspective, so that it deserves some degree of limited distribution and confidentiality. However, the nature of the information (epidemic threat) makes it worth a first alert to "those who need to know", in order to get prepared: (i) at PICTs level on one hand and, (ii) at the PPHSN-CB level on the other, so that appropriate measures can be triggered and adequate resources checked beforehand, at the initial stage of outbreak preparedness.
Once the epidemic alert has been verified and confirmed by proper diagnosis, quality and rapid information should then be dispatched on PacNet to the rest of the PacNet audience (which is already a selected professional audience).
The Pacific Telehealth conference (Link to the report)
This conference took place in Noumea, New Caledonia, from 30 November to 3 December 1998. Telehealth, public health networks, Internet use and distance education were the main topics addressed during this event. It was the first meeting between two networks which had previously operated separately in the Pacific: PacNet, the electronic mail server of the PPHSN and WPHNet, the server of the Pacific Basin Medical Association (PBMA).
Some eighty participants attended the conference. They included representatives of SPC member countries, training institutions (University of Guam, University of Papua New Guinea, Fiji School of Medicine) and of regional organisations (WHO, UNDP, SPC).
Ultimate conference objectives: improve communication and network professionals working in the health sector, especially through the promotion and use of new information technologies.
Mornings were spent on project and activity presentations, while afternoons were set aside for panel discussions. Two training workshops were also organised for the participants. One was on literature searching and document delivery by Internet, while the second was on access to and use of distance clinical and public health consultation services. At the end of the three days, four regional working groups were set up to continue the work started in the following areas:
Establishing medical associations, public health networks and role of information and communication technologies;
Distance education, basic and continuous: how to deliver a curriculum?
Integrating methods and resources for distance consultation: development of a joint PacNet/WPHNet Web site;
Outbreak identification and response: how to establish a Pacific-based network of reference laboratories?
Each of these groups received a PacNet-appended discussion list to monitor progress on tasks defined according to their respective action plans. Updated conference proceedings were published in French and English in the issue of the medical journal Pacific Health Dialog in September 2000, called "Telehealth in the Pacific".
Following the Pacific Telehealth conference, this list was created for the development of LabNet (see hereunder), is still active and includes now level-1 (national), level-2 (regional) and level-3 (reference) laboratories, plus the PPHSN Coordinating Body members. It is used to share laboratory-specific information.
PPHSN website: http://www.spc.int/phs/PPHSN/
Developed in the first semester of 2002 by SPC, this website includes information on the PPHSN and PPHSN-related events, and various reports, guidelines and publications relevant to public health surveillance and response to communicable disease outbreaks and regarding PPHSN development.
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