The Zambia Field Epidemiology Training Program (ZFETP) was established in 2014. To date, the program has graduated three cohorts from its advanced level (totaling 24 graduates) and seven cohorts from its Frontline level (totaling 106 graduates). Over the last year, ZFETP has made significant strides toward growing its staff, improving program quality, and increasing training accessibility for public health professionals from across the Southern Africa region.
Improving Program Quality
With its two most recent cohorts, ZFETP has made efforts to improve program quality and training, focusing on meeting the requirements for TEPHINET accreditation and providing targeted learning opportunities on topics like One Health and statistical analysis. For example, both cohorts four and five (launched in 2019 and 2021, respectively), have included spaces for veterinary applicants, and residents are directly involved in One Health-related projects including rabies surveillance and mass canine vaccinations. The program has also recently transitioned to using R for statistical analysis, training 11 advanced FETP residents with support from TEPHINET.
Increasing Accessibility to Field Epidemiology Training
In March 2021, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) launched the Southern Africa-Regional Collaborating Centre (SA-RCC) in Lusaka, Zambia, aimed at improving health security in the region through workforce development. One goal of the center is to have at least one field epidemiologist trained per 200,000 population in the region. Through increased staffing and acceptance of international fellows from countries who do not have an established FETP, ZFETP has played a key role in moving progress toward this goal. The recent addition of an Advanced-level FETP Coordinator, a Frontline-level FETP Coordinator, and four field mentors to the program’s staff has increased its capacity to handle more students, allowing the ZFETP to launch a new cohort of fellows every year, rather than every two years.
In 2019, the FETP accepted its first international fellow into the fourth cohort, making field epidemiology training opportunities more accessible to individuals from countries without an established FETP, like Malawi and Lesotho. In October 2021, the ZFETP successfully enrolled the members of its fifth advanced-level cohort, 50 percent of whom are from outside of Zambia. This approach to training gives the fellows a unique opportunity to share knowledge and experience from their respective countries, providing each other with insight about handling public health threats in different contextual settings. Given that diseases often cross borders, allowing admission of international fellows is critical to strengthening regional health security. To date, the newest cohort of residents has undergone its initial orientation to the Advanced FETP and started lessons in biostatistics and epidemiology.