Modelling to support epidemic prevention and response in South Africa: the COVID pandemic and beyond
The South African applied epidemiological modelling landscape consists of several small groups of researchers who have historically had mostly distinct areas of interest. In early 2020, each of these groups began working with different stakeholders in the South African government who needed modelling input. The South African COVID-19 Modelling Consortium (SACMC) was formed in late March as a mechanism to streamline and standardize the flow of information – both the provision of data to modelling groups actively involved in the response and the communication of results to diverse government stakeholders. The groups worked together to develop the National COVID Epi Model (NCEM), led by a team at University of Cape Town, and as the pandemic progressed, the types of analyses required and the group’s roles diversified. In this talk, Professor Juilet Pulliam will discuss the ways that South Africa’s modelers worked together to navigate the country’s modelling and analysis needs and discuss how the SACMC interacted with key stakeholders, such as the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, National Department of Health, and researchers engaged in other aspects of the response. Finally, Professor Pulliam will discuss how the prominence and utility of modelling during the pandemic has led to new opportunities to support epidemic prevention and response going forward.
Professor Juliet Pulliam
Professor Juliet Pulliam is the Director of the South African for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA), a National Centre of Excellence that is funded by the Department of Science and Innovation, managed by the National Research Foundation, and hosted at Stellenbosch University. She also holds the academic rank of Professor in Applied Mathematics at Stellenbosch University. Her research focuses on applications of mathematical modelling to epidemiology and control of infectious diseases, particularly emerging, re-emerging, and zoonotic diseases. Since March 2020, she has served as a member of both the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on COVID-19 and the core modelling team for the South African COVID-19 Modelling Consortium (SACMC). Prior to moving to SACEMA in July 2016, she spent five years as a faculty member in the Department of Biology and the Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI) at the University of Florida, where she was also the inaugural director of the International Clinics on Infectious Disease Dynamics and Data (ICI3D, www.ici3d.org) Program. Prof Pulliam received a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University in 2007, with a dissertation entitled Determinants and Dynamics of Viral Host Jumps, and spent three years as a Research and Policy for Infectious Disease Dynamics (RAPIDD) Program Fellow at the US National Institute of Health’s Fogarty International Center.