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Advancing Science for Global Health
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Home > Global Health Matters May/June 2024 > Georgia rising: Partnerships help this Central Eurasian nation grow Print

 Georgia rising: Partnerships help this nation grow

May/June 2024 | Volume 23 Number 3

By Susan Scutti and Mariah Felipe

This photograph shows Tbilisi, Georgia, from the air. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-GeorgiaGeorgia launched the world’s first national hepatitis C elimination program in 2015. Tbilisi (pictured) is its capital city.

Nestled in the Caucasus region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, Georgia serves as a cultural and economic link between Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It emerged as an independent nation after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, a period marked by significant socioeconomic challenges. In the wake of the country's independence, Georgia's public health priorities underwent a significant transformation. The focus shifted from primarily addressing infectious diseases and their prevention to enhancing the overall health care system and tackling broader public health issues, including the prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

Strengthening public health infrastructure

Since 1995, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has worked closely with Georgia's National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) to improve public health infrastructure in several key areas. This collaboration has focused on enhancing surveillance and laboratory capabilities, developing the public health workforce, managing outbreak responses, and establishing the NCDC as a comprehensive national public health institute. For over two decades, Georgia has maintained a polio-free status and achieved substantial control over hepatitis B. It launched the world’s first national hepatitis C elimination program in 2015. The nation is currently working towards the WHO End TB Goal to reduce TB incidence by 80% by 2030 by developing novel treatment protocols for treating the disease. 

Additionally, the U.S. National Security Council designated Georgia a U.S. Intensive Support Partner Country for Health Security in 2023. This makes Georgia part of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), which was launched by the U.S., international health organizations, and key global stakeholders following the 2014 Ebola outbreak to accelerate progress toward full implementation of the International Health Regulations, a legal framework that defines countries’ rights and obligations in handling health events and emergencies that have the potential to cross borders. Georgia’s participation in GHSA promises to stimulate its scientific development.

Since 2016, Fogarty has supported several education and training programs aimed at addressing Georgia's public health concerns, including HIV/AIDS prevention and research, tuberculosis, and NCDs. The goal of these programs, like most Fogarty-supported grants, is to provide training and education and to build capacity. Dr. Denise Esserman, professor of biostatistics at Yale and principal investigator of the Georgian Implementation Science Fogarty Training Program (GIFT), emphasized the need for local leadership in the country: “I think it’s important that our colleagues in Georgia eventually become the drivers of this program, and that our role is just to make sure the program is sustainable for them long-term.” 

Meanwhile, Georgia continues to seek guidance from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) while bolstering its public health infrastructure. In May, Fogarty hosted a delegation of academic administrators who wanted to better understand the NIH grant system and also its priorities for investing in research and development. This meeting also helped clarify to the visitors how NIH supports international partnership and programs in LMICs.

Ongoing partnerships

Certainly, collaborations with U.S. universities and research programs benefit Georgian researchers, but regional partnerships are equally important to the nation’s scientific growth and advancement. The iCREATE (Injury Capacity in Research in EAsTern Europe) program, co-led by the University of Iowa and University of Babes-Bolyai in Romania, connects Georgian researchers with peers in Armenia and the Republic of Moldova. A shared history of Soviet influence and other regional commonalities “pique our interest in comparing data and trends in our countries,” said Dr. Nino Chikhladze, a professor at Georgia's Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. Neighborly inspiration catalyzes public health progress, she said.

Among its most recent significant achievements, Georgia attained European Union candidate status in December 2023. While EU membership is not guaranteed, the Central Eurasian nation, with a population approaching 4 million people, clearly stands on the threshold of a significant transformation. As it continues the hard work of expanding its academic network, enriching its research institutes, and articulating a national public health system, Georgia has the potential to transform itself into a scientific hub. By all measures, Georgia’s development as a global research partner is vital to building a healthier, more resilient future for the broader region.

More Information

Updated June 21, 2024

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