Coronavirus revives calls for public health expert certification in Taiwan

Taiwan needs to be better equipped with public health expertise in the event of crises like the Wuhan virus

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People wearing face masks at a shopping mall in Taipei.

People wearing face masks at a shopping mall in Taipei. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Wuhan virus (COVID-19) outbreak has prompted calls for a public health expert certification system to improve Taiwan’s preparedness in the event of health emergencies.

While community-level transmission has yet to occur in Taiwan, the need for professionals in the field is bound to rise with the escalating threat of the virus, said Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), dean of National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health (CPH).

The U.S. moved to establish public health departments and institutions at universities across the country after the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic. Chan said that after the coronavirus broke out, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) soon carried out measures to recruit medical consultants with backgrounds in public health and station them at airports.

Public health expertise can be employed to prevent loopholes on the front line of disease prevention, reckoned Chen Pau-chung (陳保中), president of the Taiwan Public Health Association (TPHA). Such personnel can be deployed to conduct disease surveys, monitor, and make forecasts as well as assist in the local emergency response, reported Awakening News Networks.

With training in environmental microbiology, public health talent can help design protection measures when a disease strikes. They are also equipped with necessary knowledge and know-how to educate medical personnel and the public on the proper attitude to adopt towards health hazards, Chen believes.

Chan lamented that it is a shame the effort to push for a regulation governing public health expert certification has been on the back-burner since 2000. Without a legal certification mechanism, many of the 1,000 annual graduates from the public health departments of the country's universities are forced to choose a career not related to their skill set.