TEPHINET Director Addresses 71st Regional Committee for Africa During Special Session on COVID-19 Response
As a non-State actor, TEPHINET’s parent organization, The Task Force for Global Health, had the honor of sending a three-person delegation—including TEPHINET Director Dr. Carl Reddy—to attend the World Health Organization (WHO) virtual session of the Seventy-first Regional Committee for Africa held from August 24 to 26, 2021.
Dr. Reddy addressed the Regional Committee by delivering an oral testimony on behalf of TEPHINET during a special session on the COVID-19 response in the WHO African Region held from 2:00-5:00 p.m. Brazzaville time on Tuesday, August 24. In his testimony, Dr. Reddy shared his support for Member State efforts to build the global field epidemiology workforce needed to detect and respond to disease outbreaks before they become pandemics.
Below, read TEPHINET’s full written statement on the COVID-19 response in the African Region, which The Task Force submitted to the Secretariat for the Seventy-first Regional Committee for Africa.
Dr. Carl Reddy
Director, Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET)
The Task Force for Global Health
Seventy-first session of the Regional Committee for Africa
August 24-26, 2021
Thank you for this opportunity to provide a written statement on behalf of the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), The Task Force for Global Health.
Task Force for Global Health, founded in 1984 to advance health equity, works with more than 150 Member States to eliminate diseases, ensure access to vaccines and essential medicines, and strengthen health systems to protect populations. TEPHINET is the global network of Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs), funded primarily through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in close partnership with WHO and the WHO-AFRO region and Member State leadership.
As the Director of TEPHINET, I am sharing my support for Member State efforts to build the global field epidemiology workforce needed to detect and respond to disease outbreaks before they become pandemics with devastating human and economic consequences.
Field epidemiologists have been instrumental in the fight to detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases. They conduct outbreak investigations, perform contact tracing, monitor travelers at points of entry and attendees at mass gatherings, engage with communities on disease prevention measures, and much more. Based at ministries of health and national public health institutes, they are important contributors to the overall public health system in Member States.
TEPHINET consists of 75 Field Epidemiology Training Programs that are training field epidemiologists in more than 100 countries. To date, trainees and graduates of our member programs have investigated more than 12,000 outbreaks or acute health events and have developed more than 5,000 disease surveillance systems to improve case detection. Worldwide, more than 19,000 FETP alumni have trained as the “boots on the ground” to detect and respond to public health threats.
The need for greater public health capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to public health threats and emerging infectious diseases is a matter of life or death for people in the AFRO region and around the world. Such capacity makes Member States better able to sustain their own national systems, leading to economic growth and reducing the likelihood of political or economic instability.
Never has the need for increased field epidemiology capacity been more apparent than now, as the world has grappled socially and economically with COVID-19. The field epidemiologists in our network, including those that are members of AFENET, have been working around the clock to trace contacts, investigate and manage cases, analyze COVID-19 data, educate their communities, and much more. Without them, the governments of many Member States would not have access to reliable data on the spread of COVID-19 in their populations. In many countries there is simply no other workforce in place to conduct contact tracing or case investigations.
FETPs have trained an estimated 19,000 “Disease Detectives,” but Africa and the world need more. COVID-19 and other emerging diseases are not the only threats—FETPs fight every health threat known to us, from Ebola, measles, polio, Lassa fever, monkeypox, natural disasters and humanitarian crises. While COVID-19 is clearly an emergent threat, there will always be a “disease X” that poses a grave new threat to the world.
Thank you to our colleagues at WHO, WHO-AFRO, Africa CDC, and to the Member States, for your ongoing support of FETPs. Working together, we can continue to develop the field epidemiology capacity Member States require to address not only the current challenges of COVID-19, but the potential new threats on the horizon.