US opens CDC office in PH to bolster health management ties with DOH

Published May 23, 2022, 2:55 PM

by Betheena Unite

The United States has established a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) country office in the Philippines to further broaden its existing cooperation with the Department of Health (DOH).

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Philippines Director Dr. Romel Lacson (left) receives the MOU from Dr. Anjo Fabellon of the DOH-Bureau of International Health Cooperation. (Photo courtesy of the US Embassy in the Philippines)

The US Embassy in Manila said the CDC country office was opened this month.

Its establishment aims to advance a broad range of shared health priorities between the two agencies, including increased health security in Asia.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a poignant reminder of why strong international partnerships are so critical for our global health security. With the opening of the U.S. CDC Philippines country office, we are further reinforcing the long-standing HHS partnership between our two countries and our work together to build a healthier world,” US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Loyce Pace said.

Dr. Romel Lacson will serve as CDC’s first country director for the Philippines.

Lacson is expected to implement CDC-supported health programs and lead the agency’s peer-to-peer relationship with the DOH to address shared health priorities.

“In this new era, partnership is more essential than ever. We must be willing to take on challenges together and create opportunities together. This is why the launch of this office and our work together is so important,” Lacson said.

The DOH and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also commemorated the signing of a memorandum of understanding on health and medical sciences focused on increasing collaboration between the US and the Philippines on public health emergency preparedness and response; the prevention and control of vaccine-preventable and communicable diseases; and the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.

“Partnering on health issues is not new to our 75-year history of diplomatic relations, but the opening of a CDC Philippine office and signing this MOU strengthen this key aspect of our bilateral relationship,” US Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava said.

“As this pandemic has shown us, nations working together in partnership and with transparency to prevent, detect, and respond to health threats is more important today than ever,” she added.

Variava further said that the launch of the CDC Philippines Country Office illustrates CDC’s and DOH’s commitment to continue to work together to prevent and control diseases, strengthen public health emergency preparedness and response, and expand health security capacity.

Through its new office, CDC will also provide DOH with critical technical assistance and support services to intensify the country’s HIV and tuberculosis prevention, treatment, and care efforts, and to slow the twin epidemics.

CDC is the US’ public health agency and lead implementer of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

In the last four years, the Philippines experienced the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the Southeast Asia/Pacific region, with a sevenfold increase in newly diagnosed cases from 2010 to 2018.

Due to this, the Office of the United States Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy included the Philippines in the 2020 PEPFAR Asia region program.