Woman and man working in field


To address evolving health challenges and emerging threats — while improving public health capacity around the world — a global health community was critically needed. Dr. Jeffrey Koplan was often asked by visiting international public health leaders, during his time as director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, how to create something similar in their own countries. Thousands of miles away, his colleague, Dr. Pekka Puska, the director general of Finland’s National Institute of Public Health and Welfare was having the same experience. One night over dinner, the two friends hatched a plan to create an association dedicated to linking and supporting national public health institutes (NPHIs). The concept of a global health community was realized. 

In October 2002, 30 directors met in Bellagio, Italy. The developmental journey was different for each director, but they all shared the same vision. They knew firsthand how strong public health institutes helped their own countries and how sharing information multiplied their efforts. Similar to Pekka Puska and Jeff Koplan, many of these directors received questions from neighboring countries about establishing their own version of a CDC to improve the well-being of the communities they serve. The decision was made. They would work together, to strengthen public health infrastructure and capacity at the regional and global levels, including countries that had less developed institutes or no institute at all.

In 2006, 39 founding members formally launched IANPHI — chartered with a $20 million, five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the Emory Global Health Institute at Emory University, where Dr. Koplan was then vice president for Global Health.

IANPHI membership grew over the years, reaching 115 members in 98 countries in 2022. In addition to international benchmarks and activities, IANPHI’s members have developed strong regional networks and peer-to-peer partnerships. With support from IANPHI and local leadership, these networks in Africa, Europe, and Latin America provide resources for NPHIs in each region to learn from each other’s experiences, build capacity, and collaborate to respond to regional public health challenges.