From July 11-16 TEPHINET supported the delivery of an “Epidemiological Methods in Humanitarian Emergencies” course for Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) graduates and affiliates in the South Caucasus and Eastern European region. The workshop, which took place in Tbilisi, Georgia, was delivered in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and CDC Country office in Georgia, and provided participants with essential skills and competencies needed to respond to humanitarian emergencies.
The six-day training consisted of both didactic and practical elements, including competencies in public health surveillance in emergencies, field Investigation of acute public health events associated with emergencies, humanitarian epidemiology, and humanitarian information management. During days four through six participants were led through simulation exercises (SIMEX) that included developing a public health situation analysis (PHSA), conducting needs assessment and survey missions, addressing outbreak rumors, and setting up Early Warning Alert and Response (EWAR). These simulation exercises gave attendees the opportunity to apply concepts presented during the first three-and-half days of the course and engage in more hands-on learning.
According to Boris Pavlin, WHO team lead for acute events epidemiology and co-designer and facilitator of the course, participants were really energized by the SIMEX. “People really felt like it brought all of the concepts together and really reinforced what they learned. They got to see how the different pieces fit together in the context of a single story,” Pavlin shared.
In total, 16 FETP graduates from Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, and five non-FETP participants from Ukraine and Moldova, were awarded certificates for completing the training. Given the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, there is an increased likelihood that these individuals may be called upon to respond to conflict-related emergencies in the region, underscoring the need for, and impact of, this kind of training.
“One of the things that made [this training] so impactful was that it wasn't just theoretical; these people are responding to refugees or to their own internally displaced people or affected populations, so it made it very emotional and real," said Pavlin.
This training is part of a larger effort by TEPHINET and partners to provide FETP graduates with the skills needed to deploy for humanitarian emergencies. FETP fellows and graduates are increasingly called upon to respond to public health emergencies around the globe, yet standardized training to develop the skills and competencies needed to successfully deploy is limited. TEPHINET is thus working with partners and subject matter experts to develop a standardized emergency response curriculum for FETP alumni, and to identify opportunities to host additional “Epidemiological Methods in Humanitarian Emergencies” courses. The next course is scheduled for later this year in Ghana.
An additional goal of TEPHINET’s emergency response work is to build a diverse roster of field epidemiologists with varying experience, background, languages, and global representation so that when organizations need emergency responders, they think of FETPs first. As TEPHINET’s Emergency Response Project Team Lead Lisandro Torre puts it, “Ultimately, we want to introduce the world to FETP graduates as a foundational piece of international public health infrastructure and global outbreak response.”