The Value of Accreditation
Findings from Our External Evaluation
In 2020, TEPHINET Accreditation underwent an external evaluation which found, overall, that the accreditation process is “thorough, objective, and effective in assessing the strengths of FETPs and offering paths to improvement in gap areas.” All stakeholders involved in the evaluation found the accreditation process to be complex and challenging but highly worthwhile. There was considerable agreement among all stakeholders that accreditation leads to an increase in status for an FETP.
Many programs reported that the process led to improvements in their management and operations. The majority of programs that received an accreditation site visit reported finding the site visit to be highly productive and useful in terms of better understanding their own programs and seeing opportunities for improvement.
Download the full evaluation report:
Brazil Field Epidemiology Training Program
“As an important national strategy for strengthening health surveillance and emergency response actions in public health, TEPHINET's accreditation of EpiSUS (FETP Brazil) in 2017 was instrumental in bringing recognition to the quality and importance of the program.
The accreditation process, in all its stages, requires commitment and dedication on the part of all those involved, including managers, supervisors, trainees, partners, and, above all, flexibility and willingness to review and re-adjust the processes of conducting the program, according to the indicators established for Field Epidemiology Training Programs, recommended by TEPHINET.
It required months of preparation, from submission to the arrival of the review team, which culminated on September 3, 2017, with the certification that represented the highest award received by the program. Being an internationally accredited program has provided EpiSUS an opportunity for improvement in all directions, including strengthening its institutionalization and contributing to its sustainability.
EpiSUS was established in 2000 by the Brazilian Ministry of Health in collaboration with the U.S. CDC. The program has trained 140 health professionals, and eight are in training, totaling 15 cohorts. Since its inception, the program has prioritized the response to public health emergencies, having worked on pandemic influenza, Zika virus and its consequences, yellow fever, measles and mass gatherings, producing evidence for decision making.”
Colombia Field Epidemiology Training Program
“The accreditation process meant organizing information in a better way, improving the base documents of our program, internally verifying that we were complying with our processes, guaranteeing greater satisfaction for the current residents and fully supporting the [residents’] graduation…This also led us to reflect, to think about what we wanted and how we could improve. It led us to think about what we would be like in the next five years.”
-Dr. Maritza González, FETP Colombia Coordinator
“The key is to recognize that we make mistakes, that we are very good in the field, in pedagogy, and in what we produce, but that we must stop and review our standards, our procedures, our quality criteria. Programs must prepare themselves to be better, to accept the challenge; at last, the reward is great. Being an accredited program really puts you in the big leagues.”
-Dr. Franklyn Prieto, FETP Colombia Director
Epidemic Intelligence Service
Dr. Eric Pevzner, PhD, MPH (CAPT, USPHS), Chief of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) program at CDC, describes the value of TEPHINET accreditation for EIS. EIS was accredited by the TEPHINET Global Accrediting Body in 2016.
Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program
Dr. Ernest Kenu, Director of the Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (GFELTP) describes the value of TEPHINET accreditation for the program.
" The Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (GFELTP) started in 2007 as a two- year competency-based training program. For the past decade it has trained advanced level field epidemiologists comprising of physicians, laboratorians and veterinarians. The GFELTP evolved from an initial collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through cooperative agreements with the University of Ghana School of Public Health, Ghana Health Service/Ministry of Health (MoH) and Veterinary Services Directorate.
TEPHINET accreditation is an opportunity for FETPs to align with common standards that support quality training and increase recognition of their value in supporting country public health priorities. The GFELTP had a strong desire to obtain global accreditation since the launch of the first cycle of accreditation by TEPHINET in 2016. After a self-assessment by the program in the last quarter of 2018, the program deemed it fit to apply.
In preparation for applying to the fourth cycle of TEPHINET accreditation, GFELTP took the readiness assessment in January 2019 to ensure the program met eligibility criteria. This step was very crucial and important because it helped the program reflect on the key indicators to achieving accreditation (Management, Infrastructure and Operations, Integration with Public Health Service, Staffing and Supervision, Selection and Training of Residents and Continuous Quality Improvement), as well as to identify gaps, and institute corrective measures. The program submitted letters of intent and certification of eligibility when the fourth cycle of accreditation was announced in February 2019, and proceeded with offiicial Application once approved by TEPHINET. The application process was very critical since it involved documentation on all aspects of the program including, recruitment, training, mentorship, supervision, staffing and stakeholder engagement.
After submission of application documents to TEPHINET for review, it was also important for a site visit by the Global Accrediting Body (GAB). The GAB visited the GFELTP in September 2019 for a face-to-face interaction with the program and its partners. During their visit, the GAB interacted with and interviewed faculty and staff of the GFELTP, alumni, mentors and supervisors, partners from the CDC, WHO, GHS, MoH and the University of Ghana. The site visit created the opportunity for the GAB team to have full access to documents at the Secretariat. It also created an opportunity for stakeholder engagement.
Upon thorough assessment of the program documents, mentorship, and stakeholder engagements, the GFELTP together with other three FELTPs were accredited in November 2019 at the 10th TEPHINET Global Scientific Conference in Atlanta.
Accreditation helps strengthen systems and structures in programs. It helps identify program strengths and weaknesses and provides feedback for quality improvement. Accreditation has helped to strengthen the program’s documentation and mentorship, and has fostered stronger collaboration with partners. Global accreditation is very important and critical for every FELTP. Accredited programs enjoy many benefits, and we highly recommend TEPHINET accreditation. Being one of the few FELTPs accredited in Africa has put the program on a higher pedestal. It has increased the confidence partners have in the program, as well as improved collaboration."
-Dr. Ernest Kenu, Ghana FELTP Director
Kenya Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program
“Kenya FELTP was started in 2004 as one of the first FELTPs in Africa. It started as a regional program offering training to the neighboring countries but eventually concentrated on training for Kenya. The program is anchored in the Ministry of Health (MOH) and supported by U.S. CDC. The program initially started as a two-year training program and, in 2014, started basic and intermediate level epidemiology training to increase the number of frontline health workers with the capacity to detect and respond in time to public health emergencies, strengthen surveillance, and use data for decision-making.
In January 2017, in preparation to apply for the second cycle of TEPHINET accreditation, we undertook the readiness assessment and realized that our program actually met the eligibility criteria to apply for accreditation. The step of readiness assessment is, in itself, very important as it helps the program team reflect on all the important components of the program, identify the gaps, and institute corrective measures.
The process of applying for and preparing for the accreditation review team visit helped us to understand our strengths and gaps. For example, we realized that all our information was with different people in different personal computers and there was no central repository. With support from CDC, we are finalizing a system which will help us track our residents’ activities and also act as a repository for all their deliverables. The fact that accreditation is not one-off activity and will be reviewed every five years is helping us to make sure quality processes are maintained and that major indicators are monitored and still meet the thresholds as defined by the accreditation team.
Despite being anchored as a division within the Ministry of Health and having adequate oversight from MOH leadership, we have realized the importance of the advisory committee especially in light of the need for sustainability and full institutionalization. It’s only after the accreditation process that we fully embarked on discussions regarding program sustainability and have currently formed the program oversight committee that will mainly discuss ways of ensuring this.
The value of the accreditation process is that it helps the program to strengthen the existing or develop quality FETP processes and maintain that quality over time. With quality processes, we hope to have quality products and quality graduates.
Our advice to other programs striving for accreditation is to do the readiness assessment as early as possible and work on any corrective measures needed to meet the eligibility criteria. Work as a team to ensure all materials needed for application are gathered in time. Coordinated preparation is key for both this step and the accreditation review team visit. Prepare, prepare and prepare!
Kenya FELTP is one of the first two programs in Africa to be accredited; this, in addition to the fact that our graduates have successfully set up FETPs in other African countries, has reaffirmed our belief that we have built a quality program, and we will work hard to sustain that.”
-Dr. Zeinab Gura, Kenya FELTP Director
Philippines Field Epidemiology Training Program
Dr. Ma Nemia Sucaldito, program manager for the Philippines Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), describes the value of TEPHINET accreditation for the program. FETP Philippines was accredited by the TEPHINET Global Accrediting Body in 2017.
South Africa Field Epidemiology Training Program
Khuliso Ravhuhali of the South Africa Field Epidemiology Training Program (SAFETP) describes the value of TEPHINET accreditation for the program. SAFETP was accredited by the TEPHINET Global Accrediting Body in 2018.
Tanzania Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program
"TEPHINET’s FETP accreditation is of value to our program as it ensures the quality of our field epidemiology training by maintaining the minimum quality standards for field epidemiology training program. The entire accreditation process, including the five key stages, has made our program become committed and dedicated in all standard domains and their indicators, including: Management, Infrastructure and Operations; Integration with Public Health Service; Staffing and Supervision; Selection and Training of Residents; and Continuous Quality Improvement in our Program.
Accreditation has also increased our program’s credibility in field epidemiology and laboratory management both in country and globally. We have increased the number of enrollment for advanced course from 12-15 to 15-23 residents in a year. Some of our graduates have shown great potential and are currently serving regional and international public health agencies including African CDC, WHO and US–CDC.
Accreditation has created a culture of quality improvement within our program. This includes, but is not limited to, proper documentation, assessment of trainees and mentors, monitoring of residents while they are in field, and improved turnaround time between trainees and mentors/supervisors when responding to field work review. Obtaining accreditation has also increased trust in, and support for the program, as well as requests for collaboration when responding to public health emergencies.
TEPHINET accreditation gave us an opportunity to align with common standards that support quality training and recognition of our program’s value in supporting country public health priorities. During the process, especially during the preparation phase, we were required to provide details and information that gave us an opportunity to put more effort in improving the quality of our program since the driving force behind accreditation is quality improvement. Through the entire process, we were also able to identify our weaknesses and strengths. We had time to work on our weaknesses and address areas of improvement. Some indicators were difficult to address and to find evidence of improvement; however, in due process we were able to learn how to get evidence. For instance, assessing a turnaround time between trainees and mentors/supervisors in responding to field work review was not easy. Nevertheless, we managed through asking residents to make a printout of the email thread between them and their mentors/supervisors with regard to field work review.
We would encourage all programs to apply for TEPHINET accreditation since the accreditation process will help to improve the quality and integrity of their FETPs. Once the program is motivated enough to plan for accreditation application it will undergo the first key stage—the accreditation readiness assessment. This stage will assist the program in gathering essential information on areas of its strengths and weaknesses. The program will get time to sustain its strengths and improve its weaknesses. It will also have an opportunity to ask and learn from an accredited program within its region, and receive regional support during the readiness assessment. In so doing, little by little, the program weaknesses will improve and they will gain confidence for application. At this stage the program will have good quality control and assurance, and will stand a high chance to be accredited."
-Dr. Rogath Kishimba, Tanzania FELTP Coordinator
Zimbabwe Field Epidemiology Training Program
On the 24th of January 2018, the TEPHINET Global Accrediting Body reached the decision to confer full accreditation upon the Zimbabwe Field Epidemiology Training Program (ZimFETP), making it one of the eight programs to be accredited worldwide. With this accreditation, ZIMFETP became one of only three African countries to be accredited, along with Kenya and Cameroon. Receiving accreditation validated the program’s ability to provide essential public health services and training, and demonstrated the program’s commitment to quality improvement. Although the program has been in existence since 1993, the process of accreditation helped us to identify strengths to capitalize on, as well as weaknesses that would serve as areas of improvement.
The entire accreditation process was eye-opening and helped the program to be recognized and appreciated more. Following accreditation of the ZimFETP by TEPHINET, the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) also reviewed the program for accreditation. The ZIMCHE, which is responsible for providing criteria for accreditation of higher education institutions and programs in Zimbabwe, was pleased with how well the ZimFETP was structured, and that the program fostered competency-based learning. Having gone through the TEPHINET accreditation process, this internal review was seamless.
Currently, any institution of higher learning that wants to start an MPH-related program has to align 80% of its structure to the ZimFETP. This speaks of the high quality of training that is being rendered by the program. In addition, since receiving accreditation status, ZimFETP has hosted a number of countries such as Ethiopia, Zambia and Rwanda FETPs for ‘look and learn’ visits. These visits allowed the FETPs to learn from the best practices of the accredited program.
TEPHINET accreditation has indeed provided formal recognition by peers, both within the institution, across the country, and internationally, as cited from examples given above. The accreditation process has helped us ensure that graduates of the ZimFETP program have formal preparation that meets nationally and internationally accepted standards and quality.
We encourage all FETP programmes that have not been accredited to apply for accreditation. This process may seem intense, however, you can be rest assured that you will come out of it better. We wish all the best to all FETPs that have been encouraged by this testimonial and hope you have been moved to consider applying for TEPHINET accreditation.
-Ms. Tsitsi Juru, Technical Advisor, ZimFETP