Rockefeller Looks to its Past to Help Track West Africa Disease Outbreaks in the Future

The Rockefeller Foundation recently awarded the Royal Institute of International Affairs a one-year, $360,000 grant toward its Centre on Global Health Security. The grant will support the institute’s planning and development efforts for its West African Disease Surveillance Network.

What makes this grant interesting is that after Rockefeller ran its Disease Surveillance Networks Initiative for five years and awarded $22 million in grants, the foundation ended the program in 2012. Of course, a few short years later, the Ebola pandemic reared its ugly head in West Africa and reminded the world of the importance of tracking diseases.

Related: Rockefeller Is Still Making Disease Surveillance Grants. And Good Thing, Too

This isn’t the first time Rockefeller has dusted off its disease surveillance grantmaking since the official program went dark a few years ago. In late 2014, the foundation awarded Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance (CORDS) two good-sized grants.

The first was a $1.4 million grant for capacity building efforts of CORDS’ One Health program, which promotes disease surveillance through regional networks. The second was a $550,000 grant toward the support of an Ebola training project that would help build capacity and improve preparedness and response efforts to Ebola in West Africa.

Ebola recovery in West Africa isn’t a done deal. The situation is precarious and the region has yet to fully emerge from the crisis. But with fewer new Ebola cases emerging, the global health community is beginning to shift its focus from emergency response to addressing problems highlighted by the epidemic. 

Related: Mission Accomplished on Ebola? Not Yet. Paul Allen is Sticking around West Africa

This reallocation of resources aims not only to help West Africa’s health infrastructure recover, but to better prepare the region for possible future outbreaks. The whole goal of Rockefeller’s former Disease Surveillance initiative was to develop regional early outbreak detection networks with the goal of helping to prevent a pandemic. The program may have officially ended, but it looks as though Rockefeller is still casting a watchful eye in the general direction of disease surveillance, especially, it seems, in the wake of Ebola.