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International collaborations on health bring mutual benefits for all

Published: 10 May 2023

The International Health Coordination Centre (IHCC) at Public Health Wales has detailed how supporting, strengthening and championing international and global health activity directly benefits people in Wales and beyond.

The IHCC progress report 2018-2022 explains how working together with other countries during the Coronavirus pandemic enabled NHS Wales to be more resilient and globally responsible. 

The IHCC team, said:  

“The last few years have been a turbulent period for health systems and the health workforce as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but the report shows significant international collaboration taking place despite this. The examples included in the report clearly demonstrate the mutual benefit of global health cooperation, including during emergencies. 

“The IHCC has continued to evolve and make progress despite the pandemic disruption and suspension of its work during this time but there is still much to be done to rebuild confidence and momentum following such enormous changes and challenges. 

“In terms of international health, Wales is fortunate to have strong structures and drive at both grassroots and strategic levels. There are positive approaches being implemented currently which along with good leadership and government support should permit the growth of more collaborative, impactful and mutually beneficial environment and activities. ” 

Examples of Wales’ collaborative working include: 

  • Public Health Wales’s input into informing the Welsh Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, using regular International Horizon Scanning and learning reports. These are ongoing, now taking a broader look at public health priorities and emerging issues/threats. 
  • A clinical and academic partnership with Indonesia to support development of the Indonesian ambulance service, funded through a UK research grant. This has developed mathematical models to guide developments and provided clinical paramedicine training. 
  • An all-Wales pharmacy collaboration with Malawi to improve antimicrobial stewardship and reduce antimicrobial resistance, funded by UK Official Development Assistance. A toolkit and training were developed to improve practice, and the partnership engaged with national bodies to ensure alignment with wider health strategies. 
  • A research project to promote use and assess the impact of a debriefing tool for clinical teams. This was in collaboration with institutions in Spain and Norway and was funded by a European research grant. The tool has been used to support clinicians during the pandemic and is now in use in twenty countries across the world. 
  • A link between north Wales and Kenya which, guided by a needs assessment, has developed a community events-based surveillance reporting system and training, funded by the Welsh government’s Wales and Africa programme. Over 60 Community Health Volunteers have been trained and now report concerns directly to the district public health team. 
  • Two Welsh Government funded reports examining Wales’s international health activity, with recommendations to strengthen this. A Steering Group has considered the recommendations and there are plans to implement change. 

The report highlights the IHCC’s role, achievements, ways of working, collaborative structures and activities; and outlines the evolution of the IHCC in relation to global, UK, national and local developments. These include challenges and opportunities such as the UK withdrawal from the European Union (‘Brexit’), the COVID-19 pandemic and the ‘cost of living’ crisis. It demonstrates the tools used to enable shared learning, facilitate cross-NHS and cross-sector synergies, and maximise benefits to the health and well-being of the people in Wales and beyond.