The Namibia Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP) has played a key role in addressing health inequity in the country since its inception in 2012. With support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) of Namibia, the FELTP started training medical doctors, nurses, veterinarians, laboratory scientists and environmental practitioners in frontline field epidemiology in 2012, followed by implementation of an advanced-level cohort in 2014. Since its inception, the program has continued recruiting and training the country’s public health workforce to address gaps in health service delivery, outbreak response, laboratory sciences and more.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, FELTP alumni and residents have remained a strong part of the MoHSS response at the national and subnational levels, working on the frontlines to conduct early case detection, contact tracing, data collection and management, health education, and risk communications. Additionally, through science and evidence-based decision making, the program has been involved in the creation and regulation of COVID-19 prevention policies and activities, including quarantine and vaccine administration. The increased health workforce capacity provided by the Namibia FELTP has been critical to combating COVID-19 across the country.
Prior to the establishment of the Namibia FELTP, there was no formal training available for field epidemiologists, and the country faced a critical shortage of skilled health workers trained in emergency response, preparedness, and disease surveillance. To date, five cohorts have graduated from the frontline level, and six cohorts have graduated from the advanced level, resulting in more than 180 trained disease detectives ready to detect and respond to public health threats.
The program trains and enhances skills in principles of field epidemiology, data management, biostatistics, public health surveillance, epidemiology of priority public health conditions and non-communicable diseases, public leadership and management, advanced epidemiological methods, preventive effectiveness (health economics), scientific communication, teaching and mentorship, and research methods. Moreover, in collaboration with the MoHSS, the FELTP engages and builds strong partnerships with various stakeholders from the grassroots and international levels, including the U.S. CDC, Africa CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, Robert Koch Institute (RKI), and more. These partnerships allow for critical knowledge sharing and exchange of skills across multiple sectors that contribute to the continued strengthening of both Namibia’s and Africa’s health workforce.