Two years ago, the Rockefeller Foundation concluded its Disease Surveillance Networks Initiative after five years and $22 million in grants. The initiative, which had been scaling up since 1999, officially launched in 2007 and worked to address “the rapid emergence of new infectious diseases.”
At the time, Rockefeller focused on nasty bugs like SARS, Avian Flu, and Swine Flu. Having decided that it had accomplished the goals it set out in 2007, Rockefeller’s Disease Surveillance Networks Initiative went dark.
And maybe it will stay dark, in terms of an established grantmaking program. In the meantime, the Big One has finally arrived for the pandemic community in the form of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and, whether coincidentally or not, the Rockefeller Foundation recently awarded a $1.4 million, 16-month grant to Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance (CORDS), an NGO based in France that is currently working to build an information exchange and improve communication amongst disease surveillance networks around the world.
The origins of this grant aren't exactly clear, and appear to transcend current events in West Africa. On the other hand, Rockeller has been working with CORDS on the Ebola crisis. Earlier this month, it funded a convention by CORDS in Tanzania to analyze the lessons from previous Ebola outbreaks, and some of the findings of that meeting are posted on the foundation's website.
CORDS refers to itself as a “network of networks.” The Rockefeller grant is aimed at broadly strengthening the organization by helping it expand (it currently operates six regional surveillance networks), and also supporting CORDS’ One Health Initiative work.
The One Health Initiative is an all-inclusive approach to expanding communication and supporting interdisciplinary collaborations in all aspects of healthcare worldwide. We’re talking about a big push for a massive interdisciplinary collaboration that includes human medicine, molecular biology, microbiology, ecology, environmental health, veterinary medicine and more.
CORDS works toward the same overall goals of Rockefeller’s defunct Global Disease Surveillance Initiative, and that is to detect disease outbreaks early to help contain the outbreak and mitigate its global impact. The organization also has some key affiliations, including the WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the Animal Organization of the United Nations.
CORDS currently operates three major disease surveillance centers in South Africa, East Africa, and the Mekong Basin, all regions in which Rockefeller’s disease surveillance work is focused.