Header photo: Destruction of mosquito breeding sites to contain dengue (Mara Muñoz, Paraguay FETP)
Field epidemiology training programs help keep the world safe from disease by increasing countries’ capacity to detect and respond to disease threats, expanding the global health workforce, and building relationships between ministries of health and other partners. These programs train health workers to be the "boots on the ground" before, during, and after a disease outbreak to strengthen public health systems and ensure rapid disease detection and response.
TEPHINET brings field epidemiologists together at the global level to share knowledge and experiences and develop opportunities for collaboration in training and response. We provide programs with the opportunity to network and benchmark each other. A great benefit of TEPHINET has been that regions learn from one another through TEPHINET projects, meetings, and conferences.
TEPHINET provides a focus on global capacity-building in this field and opportunities to build capacity within country by working with ministries of health and higher education and public health institutes.
Through funded projects, TEPHINET supports FETP activities including training workshops, curriculum development, and the hiring of resident advisors and key technical consultants who serve as expert mentors to trainees as they complete their programs.
By the Numbers
Trainees and graduates of TEPHINET member programs have*:
- Established or evaluated more than 3,000 surveillance systems
- Conducted more than 7,600 outbreak investigations
- Delivered more than 6,400 oral and poster presentations
- Published more than 2,100 peer-reviewed articles
*Source: TEPHINET member program survey (2017)
Examples of TEPHINET's Impact
TEPHINET provided expert trainers and mentors to the Surveillance Training for Ebola Preparedness (STEP) program, a combined effort of public health agencies in Africa and abroad that was launched to strengthen public health capacity to respond to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. STEP, for which the CDC provided the curriculum, coordinated hands-on training sessions for public health practitioners in disease surveillance and outbreak response protocols. Through TEPHINET, more than 150 FETP graduates applied to be STEP mentors. The principles trainees learn through STEP can be applied to other infectious diseases and therefore have longer-term positive impact on disease surveillance within their countries. STEP was implemented in the Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Senegal, training more than 200 public health professionals.
In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region was most affected. In response to the outbreak, the U.S. Government allocated a portion of the funds remaining from the Ebola outbreak response to the LAC region. As an implementing partner to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TEPHINET received funds to help countries build sustainable capacity for detecting and responding to the threat of Zika by developing in-country expertise to detect disease outbreaks locally and prevent them from spreading. One of the major components of all the projects was the implementation of a frontline, or basic-level, 12-week field epidemiology training program (officially known as FETP-Frontline) to rapidly and efficiently train health workers with an emphasis on conducting Zika disease surveillance, identifying microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, and ensuring FETP-Frontline graduates are ready to respond to Zika and other vector-borne outbreaks at the country level. Project implementation began in September 2016 with TEPHINET providing technical oversight and ensuring quality in the implementation of the project in each country. To date, more than 1,000 Frontline field epidemiology trainees have graduated across nine countries and sub-regions and have participated in more than 300 outbreak investigations.
TEPHINET is collaborating with the National Stop Transmission of Polio (N-STOP) program in Pakistan by providing administrative and logistical support to facilitate the travel of N-STOP officers to high-risk districts where polio is endemic. N-STOP provides technical assistance to immunization campaigns at the district level. Many N-STOP officers are Pakistan FELTP graduates or trainees and often work in dangerous conditions. The logistical support provided by TEPHINET is invaluable for ensuring that these health workers have vehicles, places to stay, and a team of security and community mobilization personnel to go into communities. TEPHINET currently supports 64 N-STOP officers assigned in 52 high-risk districts, agencies, and towns as well as eight Emergency Operations Centers and response units across Pakistan. This number is expected to increase to 75 officers during the next year. N-STOP’s work has led to an increase in immunity in children younger than five years old to 88 percent in 2015, up from 77 percent in 2011. In 2016, Pakistan had the lowest ever annual number of polio cases in the country (20 cases).
Along with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, HealthMap, and ProMED, TEPHINET was a founding partner of EpiCore (epicore.org), an online platform for finding and reporting outbreaks faster than traditional disease surveillance methods alone. EpiCore enables faster global outbreak detection and reporting by linking a worldwide member network of health experts through a secure online reporting platform. EpiCore’s innovative surveillance system detects and confirms outbreaks more quickly so communities can respond faster, curb epidemics and save lives. EpiCore members include human and animal health professionals who assist ProMED moderators by providing real-time information regarding events described in ProMED posts. Information provided by EpiCore members allows ProMED moderators to verify suspected outbreaks and disseminate additional information to the international public health community through ProMED. EpiCore has almost 1,900 members from 138 countries (as of May 2017).
TEPHINET is in the unique position to be able to build the first truly global network of field epidemiology training program alumni. Establishing permanent communications with FETP alumni is critical for advancing global health security as alumni can be called upon for outbreak response and technical expertise. To that end, in August 2017, with support from the CDC, TEPHINET launched TEPHIConnect, an online and mobile networking platform for FETP graduates. As of September 6, 2018, TEPHIConnect has 1,317 members. In May 2018, TEPHINET used TEPHIConnect during the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to identify dozens of French-speaking graduates of advanced-level FETPs. Fifty were contacted about their interest in deploying to the outbreak. Within a week, 17 responded with their availability and CVs. Their information was shared with the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) to assist in their effort to identify responders for the World Health Organization's Ebola response.