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US ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller on Wednesday praised the epidemiologists and public health experts who continue to serve as Bangladesh's frontline of defense to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, reports UNB.

"The pandemic has taught us many things. One of those things is policy and actions are only as effective as the science and data they are built upon," he said.

Miller said they can promote mask wearing and social distancing because they know the science and data tells them it works.

"We can promote vaccination because the data from the vaccine trials and post vaccination surveillance tells us the vaccines are safe and effective. None of this is possible without epidemiologists and public health experts," he said.

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The US ambassador inaugurated the first "Bangladesh Congress on Epidemiology and Public Health" and the two-day conference (Wednesday-Thursday) includes in-person and online sessions sharing experiences and scientific lessons from Bangladesh about Covid-19; establishing a global network of public health experts to apply Covid-19 lessons to prepare for future pandemics and outbreaks; and building support for expanding the number of epidemiologists and public health experts in Bangladesh.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is partnering with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), and the Epidemiology Association of Bangladesh to sponsor this first-ever national conference focused on the vital roles field epidemiology and public health play in saving lives and keeping people healthy from serious diseases in Bangladesh and across the world during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I am here to support the efforts of many to give greater focus to the fields of epidemiology and public health both globally and here in Bangladesh," Miller said highlighting the importance of the Congress.

"We all want answers to challenging public health questions [about Covid-19] ... and we turn to our epidemiologists and public health scientists to piece together the information and draw conclusions just like a detective does at a crime scene. It is not an easy job. But we can no longer deny it is a vitally important one," Miller said.

Speaking of the importance of increasing the number of epidemiologists and public health experts in Bangladesh to meet the World Health Organization and CDC recommended levels of a minimum of one medical epidemiologist for every 200,000 persons, CDC Bangladesh country director Michael Friedman noted that for Bangladesh, this equates to a minimum of 850 fully trained and employed medical epidemiologists.

"We are proud of the remarkable achievements of the CDC-funded FETP since its establishment in 2014, but more must be done," he said adding that the government of Bangladesh and international partners need to scale up the programmes like the FETP and create Ministry of Health posts in each district for these medical professionals to reach the needed target of 850 fully trained and employed local field epidemiologists.

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He said the Covid-19 pandemic has taught the world that epidemiologists are vital and can be a great career choice for young health professionals wanting to make a difference in their community, their country, or the world.

Ambassador Miller and IEDCR director Shirin presented certificates of completion to 10 of graduates of the CDC-funded Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP).

Since the start of the FETP Bangladesh programme in 2014, 33 Bangladeshi epidemiologists have completed the rigorous two-year programme.

Over the past year, the trained Fellows have served on Bangladesh's frontlines in combating Covid-19, usually as the first people on the ground doing case investigations, contact tracing, and other measures to both understand and control the spread of the deadly virus.

Conference attendees will also establish a global network of public health experts to apply Covid-19 lessons to prepare for future pandemics and outbreaks and discuss the importance of expanding the number of epidemiologists and public health experts in Bangladesh.

Similar scientific conferences on epidemiology and public health are held annually at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta and in many other countries; this year's first national Congress is intended to become a biennial meeting.

The CDC-funded First Bangladesh Congress on Epidemiology and Public Health is one of many initiatives of the US government along with over $73 million in assistance over the past year to support Bangladesh's coronavirus response efforts, including strengthening Covid-19 testing capacity of Bangladeshi laboratories; improving the care given to Covid-19 patients; and controlling the spread of the infection.

It builds on the more than $1 billion in US health assistance to Bangladesh over the past twenty years and underscores the long-term US commitment to ensuring access to quality, lifesaving health services for all people in Bangladesh.

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