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Alumnus epidemiology expert developing policy to tackle COVID-19 in Bangladesh

Posted: 28 August 2020

Bangladesh, Alumni, COVID-19, Impact,

Australia Awards alumnus Dr Aninda Rahman’s ambition was always to become a leader in disease surveillance and to be a health policymaker. He is fulfilling this dream—and changing lives—as the Deputy Program Manager (antimicrobial resistance containment, viral hepatitis and diarrhoea control program) of the Communicable Disease Control (CDC) unit at the Bangladesh Directorate General of Health Services. In this role, he provides essential support to improve public health capacities that are needed to detect and respond to communicable diseases.

Notably, Dr Rahman has been active in Bangladesh’s response to the outbreak of COVID-19. He has produced key documents and has helped train doctors and frontline workers to respond better to the pandemic.

As an Australia Awards scholar, Dr Rahman completed a Master of Epidemiology from the University of Queensland in 2018. “I always wanted to be an expert on disease surveillance programs and outbreak investigations, and to help prevent epidemics,” he says. “To boost my expertise, I applied for an Australia Awards Scholarship because I was convinced that an Australian degree would help me achieve this dream.”

When Bangladesh recorded its initial COVID-19 cases in March 2020, Dr Rahman started preparing himself mentally to serve his country. He was determined to use his knowledge and expertise in epidemiology to formulate more productive and innovative policies, and to strengthen the capacity of the public health system and health care workers in the country.

Dr Rahman has been working collaboratively with partner organisations (including the World Health Organization, United Nations agencies and donor groups) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare since January 2020. He is the Member Secretary of the National Technical Committee for Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) for COVID-19. He has also co-edited two key technical documents: the National COVID-19 Clinical Management Guideline and National COVID-19 IPC Guidelines for Health Facilities.

“My Australia Awards experience and knowledge has been beneficial in performing my duties in the containment efforts of the COVID-19 outbreak,” he says. “I am applying my knowledge in epidemiology in formulating better health policy, strategy and guidelines in response to COVID-19 and I am contributing to achieving better health outcomes. The public health network I developed while studying in Australia has helped me in the preparation of proper guidelines. While editing the guidelines, I consulted and worked in collaboration with healthcare professionals from Australia.”

Dr Rahman was a member of the core group for developing national action and preparedness plans for COVID-19. He led the emergency training program for doctors and nurses on clinical management of COVID-19 cases and IPC in healthcare settings, which has trained more than 6,000 doctors and nurses all over Bangladesh. He was also responsible for organising a quarantine centre in early March for newly returned Bangladeshis.

“Australia Awards has helped me to improve my communication and leadership skills,” he says. “Now I am a part of a global health movement.”

“I am frequently involved in facilitating discussions and meetings with international experts. For example, I was assigned to coordinate the visit of an expert team from China, who came to Bangladesh to provide feedback on our COVID-19 efforts.”

The suffering and struggles of family, friends and the entire nation motivates Dr Rahman to work relentlessly. Given Bangladesh’s vulnerability to risks beyond COVID-19, such as the swine flu, Nipah virus, bird flu and other infectious diseases, Dr Rahman believes that the country needs more experts on disease surveillance, outbreak investigations and epidemics. He is an active advocate for building strong national health capacities because he recognises that they are needed to respond to infectious diseases, epidemics and pandemics.

“I am thankful to the Australian Government for the opportunity to experience the world’s best education system and international research facilities that helped me to earn this global outlook and build a cosmopolitan attitude,” he says. “Now I would like to develop myself as a global health leader and be part of the development story of Bangladesh by using my skills and knowledge in the public health sector.”