Alpha Diallo, PhD, HCLD/PHLD(ABB)—former head of the District of Columbia Public Health Laboratory—was born in the Foutah region of Guinea. Today, he is back on the African continent, working toward a lofty goal: to help create a strong national public health laboratory system in his native land. More precisely, Diallo is heading up APHL’s first permanent field office in Guinea, a country still recovering from the ravages of an Ebola epidemic that disrupted economic life and sickened roughly 4,000 Guineans between late 2013 and October 2015.
The new APHL field office was established about the time Guinea was declared Ebola-free, with the national mood here encompassing both cautious optimism and somber remembrance of the more than 2,500 people killed by the virus. In the wake of that tragic epidemic, Diallo hopes to capitalize on the country’s heightened commitment to disease control and the availability of new public health resources, including a US Department of Defense (DoD) mobile laboratory donated to the Guinea Ministry of Health. However, many challenges remain.
Guinea is a nation of almost 12 million people, but more than 40% are under age 15. According to the World Health Organization, a child born in Guinea can expect to die before age 60. The maternal mortality rate—one measure of the state of the public health system—is 679 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with 14 per 100,000 in the US. Several endemic infectious diseases, such as HIV and malaria, afflict significant portions of the population and require timely laboratory testing for definitive diagnosis and disease control.
Diallo’s top priorities include:
- Working with national health authorities and CDC Guinea to update the country’s National Laboratory Strategic Plan and Policy
- Increasing testing capacity for Ebola virus disease and other infectious diseases
- Developing the local laboratory workforce through the provision of technical and laboratory management training
- Helping to implement quality management systems to assure accurate test results
He hopes the former DoD laboratory will become a venue for advanced training for Guinean scientists, including training in Ebola testing and molecular virology. Diallo would also like to assist with the development of a national public health laboratory institute to formalize public health laboratory practice in Guinea and to better integrate laboratory practice with other parts of the public health system.
Diallo, who has also served as a member of teaching faculty of the George Washington University-APHL International Institute for Public Health Laboratory Management, said, “Every country must have a strong national public health laboratory” for effective disease surveillance and outbreak response. Ultimately, he hopes timely, high-quality laboratory data can help to improve health outcomes and to spare Guinea from suffering another epidemic on the scale of Ebola.
For more information on APHL's Global Health program, contact Lucy Maryogo-Robinson, MPH, director, Global Health,