Q and A with Dr. Placido Cardoso, Guinea Bissau INASA

August 5, 2016

By Stormm Van Rooi

With support from IANPHI and partners, the National Institute of Public Health (INASA) in Guinea-Bissau has been transformed from a single, dilapidated post-civil-war building to a high functioning, and continually expanding, center for national public health efforts.

IANPHI WORLD recently chatted with INASA President, Dr. Placido Cardoso, about his work, the history of INASA and the operation of a National Public Health Institute. 

How did you become interested in public health?

It’s little known, but Guinea-Bissau has one of the highest levels of mortality rates in the world. While studying for my Masters in International Health in Denmark, I concentrated on reproductive health, specifically in women. Women were dying at an alarming rate due to postpartum hemorrhaging, something that I believe is completely preventable. However, to reduce maternal mortality rates you need to have a vision. There needs to be involvement in other sectors such as infrastructure, energy, and health education for women. I wanted to play a part in changing that. 

It wasn’t until I began working in a regional hospital in Bissorã, a town located in the Oio Region of Guinea-Bissau, that I developed an interest in public health. I realized that in order to reduce the mortality rate, you must find the source of the problem. Public health was the best field to join in order to find the problem and solve it.

Can you share a bit about the history of INASA?

Prior to the establishment of INASA, the functions of public health in Guinea-Bissau existed in several different departments. Epidemiology, laboratories, the national school of health, and the department of information and communications for health all functioned separately.

FIOCRUZ Brazil and IANPHI worked with us to create a strategy to integrate several of these existing entities. INASA was the product of these strategies. In order to run a more effective public health institute, all of our institutions needed to have the same vision. With multiple different institutes it was difficult to achieve one greater goal. INASA was the solution.

As we have improved the governance and focus, the institute has continued to grow, allowing INASA become a more competent and inclusive public health institute. 

INASA has been very successful in leveraging funding for its continued work and growth as an institute. What advice would you offer to other NPHIs looking to increase support for leveraging funding?

I have three pieces of advice. First, everything should start with planning. Every institute needs a working strategic plan. When you have a plan in place, it helps you sell your needs better. By showing evidence of these needs, explaining what you have done in the past, and what you are doing in the present, it is easier to garner support. Second, you need to be transparent in showing the ways you have used the funding you have received. This is critical to creating confidence with partners. Not only does it build credibility, but it also shows that your partner can trust your institute to leverage additional funding. And finally, strong leadership and ongoing support from external partners is important. For INASA, we don’t receive support from the government, so it is key to have other partners supplement our work.

What role has IANPHI played in INASA’s work?

Because of IANPHI, INASA exists. IANPHI was with us from the beginning, helping us to create our first strategic plans. IANPHI understands the role of INASA, they are very engaged in what we are doing here and support our institution’s vision and goals. IANPHI was also able to facilitate partnerships for INASA in various other African countries. Burkina Faso requested support from IANPHI, and INASA was invited to assist in this process. I consider this a way of paying it forward because we have benefitted so greatly from IANPHI’s support. Dr. Abiba Banla, the director of Togo’s National Institute of Hygiene (INH), also invited INASA to visit. Because of our relationship with IANPHI, these exciting new partnerships have been established and fostered. We look forward to continuing our work with IANPHI and its members.

Learn More About INASA

National Institute of Public Health, INASA

IANPHI Projects in Guinea-Bissau >>