UK Public Health Rapid Support Team appoints first Director

Professor Daniel Bausch has been appointed Director of the new UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST). Funded by the UK Government, the UK-PHRST is jointly run by Public Health England and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, with Oxford University and King’s College London as academic partners. The UK-PHRST consists of public health experts, scientists, academics and clinicians ready to respond to urgent requests from countries around the world within 48 hours to support them in preventing local disease outbreaks from becoming global epidemics.

When not responding to outbreaks, the UK-PHRST will conduct rigorous research to improve the response to future epidemics. It will also have a strong focus on helping vulnerable low- and middle-income countries develop their own capacity to identify and control disease outbreaks, working with counterparts in developing countries to train and support their responders.

The team will also assist with training a group of public health reservists to maintain the UK’s capability to rapidly scale up the response to any disease outbreak or health emergency.

Prof Daniel Bausch, a specialist in emerging infectious diseases trained in internal medicine, infectious diseases, tropical medicine, and public health, will take up the position of Director of the UK-PHRST in April. He has extensive experience in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia combatting deadly global health threats such as Ebola virus, hantavirus, and SARS coronavirus.

Prof Bausch’s most recent role was as the Technical Lead for the Epidemic Clinical Management Unit in the World Health Organization's (WHO) Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases Department. He is a tenured Professor at the Tulane University Health Sciences Center in the United States and has served as a regular consultant for the WHO, the United Nations and the US National Institutes of Health. In addition to his expertise in the sciences, Prof Bausch places a strong emphasis on capacity building in all his projects and also has a keen interest in the role of the scientist in promoting health and human rights.

The 2014 Ebola virus crisis in West Africa highlighted the need for the international community to develop a system to help countries respond to and control disease outbreaks that threaten public health before they can develop into global emergencies. The UK-PHRST was established in response to this need as part of the UK’s contribution to global health security.

The Government has made £20million available from the UK development assistance budget to fund the team over five years. This new capacity reflects the UK’s enhanced commitment to being a global leader in public health and science and at the forefront of fighting global threats.

Public Health and Innovation Minister, Nicola Blackwood said: “Deploying emergency support rapidly overseas to investigate disease outbreaks will help save lives and prevent emergencies like the Ebola crisis happening again.

“Professor Bausch brings a vital background in tackling epidemics with the United Nations and World Health Organization. I am confident he will continue the UK’s proud tradition of being at the forefront of fighting global threats.”

Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Professor Bausch’s extensive experience means he is ideally placed to lead the UK-PHRST. He combines expertise in academic research and the practical control of emerging infectious diseases, and has worked around the world, including in West Africa during the recent Ebola epidemic. Under his leadership the team will work to support countries and prevent disease outbreaks from escalating into large epidemics that can devastate societies around the world.”

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive at Public Health England, said: “Professor Bausch brings a wealth of expertise in dealing with international disease outbreaks. The UK-PHRST will work with countries across the globe to stop the spread of deadly diseases, not only protecting the UK but playing a vital role at the forefront of global public health security.”

Daniel Bausch, Director of the UK-PHRST, said: “Effective control of outbreaks will require a multi-pronged approach, including innovative solutions to optimise preparedness and emergency response capacities, long-term commitments to strengthen surveillance and response systems in resource-poor areas of the world, and advocacy and action to ensure the universal right to health. The UK-PHRST represents an opportunity to create a model program at the forefront of these endeavours, with real impact to limit disease not only overseas but also in the UK.”

Current UK-PHRST research projects focus on various elements key to understanding and controlling outbreaks, including in the areas of epidemiology, patient-based research, laboratory science, social science, and mental health and well-being.

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