Through our Quality Improvement Assistance (QIA) initiative, TEPHINET awards up to $15,000 USD to support various Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) quality improvement activities. During a webinar on February 24, 2022, FETP Program Directors and Coordinators had the opportunity to learn more about these awards and hear from two recipients from the 2020-2021 cycle. The Zambia and Colombia FETPs shared the quality improvement activities they were able to carry out with their award, including strengthening field epidemiology teaching and training strategies, and implementing new approaches for data analysis. The webinar also provided an opportunity for FETP directors and coordinators to hear directly from TEPHINET’s Accreditation and Quality Improvement Team Lead, Lorie Burnett, who discussed eligibility criteria and fielded questions from programs interested in applying.
Improving Reporting and Equipping Fellows with Data Analysis Skills
Through the help of TEPHINET’s QIA award, the Zambia FETP was able to procure the resources needed to improve documentation of its program activities, a key step for program accreditation. Part of this initiative included procuring dedicated office space to store program materials, and developing project tracking tools for residents to report on their activities. A monthly Residents Driven Project Tracking Tool (ReDPETT) was created to help the program assess residents’ progress on key deliverables, and a weekly activities sheet has been implemented to improve accountability of residents’ time spent in the field.
With support from CDC and AFENET, the program has also been focusing on quality improvement across a range of areas, including staffing, the inclusion of international residents, strengthening the One Health approach to training, and training in R. The QIA award allowed the FETP to conduct a training workshop on the R statistical package for 11 advanced residents. Since the FETP is working on transitioning to the use of R-programming for statistical analysis, this training was critical to ensuring data quality and consistency across the program’s range of activities.
Increasing Frontline Capacity in South America
The Colombia FETP was able to utilize their QIA funds to improve program quality and scientific capacity not just in that country, but across the South American region, conducting multiple training sessions in Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. Trainings included a four-day virtual training of trainers for 59 Frontline tutors near the Colombia, Brazil, and Peruvian borders; a similar four-day training for 36 Frontline tutors near the Colombia-Ecuador border, and a training on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for 60 Frontline, intermediate, and advanced tutors throughout Colombia. The two four-day trainings helped strengthen scientific and epidemiological knowledge at the local level and optimize the skills of FETP mentors in the areas of field epidemiology, risk management, outbreak response, and border approaches, while the GIS training increased capacity for improved visualization of data in relation to health emergencies. Program staff shared the importance of being able to offer these trainings with the support of their QIA award, stating that “Keeping human talent updated and trained allows the implementation of organized and coordinated strategies that strengthen scientific and epidemiological knowledge and reinforce the mission of the FETP Colombia”.