TEPHINET Launches a New Learning Strategy to Ensure a Well-Trained and Prepared Global Field Epidemiology Workforce

When COVID-19 struck the world, Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs) found that their routine ways of working and training had to change, and quickly. Throughout 2020, the need for virtual teaching and learning has been on the forefront of FETP and learner needs. While TEPHINET’s new 10-year learning strategy is well-timed in terms of addressing how FETPs can improve learning experiences to build capability in the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future, the need for a network-wide learning strategy was clear long before the pandemic. It is in this context that TEPHINET introduces its learning strategy to ensure a well-trained and professional global field epidemiology workforce prepared to address evolving public health priorities.

The new strategy presents the future vision of learning within the global FETP network and the goals for achieving the desired future state, which envisions:

  • Programs where in-field learning and mentoring experiences are second-to-none; a globally vetted, competency-based curricula guides local curriculum development; and impactful modern learning solutions are implemented that respond to learner’s needs
  • An FETP learning community that has significant and readily available professional development opportunities for trainer and mentor staff, a strong global culture of sharing and collaboration, a strengthened learning support model for regional networks and continuous learning opportunities for alumni; and a professional credentialing program for field epidemiologists.
  • A TEPHINET Secretariat with learning leadership that drives strategic change and creates a primary learning hub that supports network learning initiatives

“When this strategy is operationalized, the benefits for the global FETP community include a more globally connected FETP network, a more competent workforce prepared to respond to public health emergencies, stronger learning engagement and knowledge retention, and reduced duplication of efforts in developing commonly needed learning solutions,” says Dr. Carl Reddy, the director of TEPHINET.

The strategy outlines the path to this desired future state via six learning focus areas:

  1. TEPHINET Network Learning Hub: Be the strategic hub for FETP network learning improvement within the FETP Enterprise. (As established in the Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap [2018], the FETP Enterprise is defined as the totality of the leaders, funders, implementing partners, government agencies, and other stakeholders engaged in this global effort, along with associated workforce competency targets, standards, agreements, technologies, etc. that undergird this work.)
  2. Robust FETP Staff Professional Development: Provide FETPs with robust solutions, programs, tools, and resources to help FETP staff develop their trainer and mentor capabilities.
  3. High Quality Learning Experiences: Enable FETPs to improve the quality of their programs and learning experiences and demonstrate this through measured outcomes.
  4. Global Culture of Sharing Knowledge and Resources: Enable a culture of collaboration, knowledge sharing, and social learning among the FETP community within and across various geographies and disciplines.
  5. Workforce Upskilling: Equip the field epidemiology workforce with current and updated knowledge and skills through continuous learning solutions and improved learning response during public health emergencies.
  6. Progressive Evolution and Growth: Work with FETP regional networks to strengthen regional learning support and implement a global credentialing program.

While targeting four main audiences, including program learners, mentors, trainers, and alumni, each of these six focus areas includes related strategic goals in order to achieve those outcomes.

“We are confident that with the right investment and resources, our learning strategy will deliver the desired future state and produce significant quality outcomes for all stakeholders,” says Dr. Reddy.

Background on Strategy Development

While TEPHINET’s new learning strategy is well-timed in light of needed COVID-19 response work and learning, the strategy is built on foundational strategic guidance for both TEPHINET and the FETP Enterprise. The TEPHINET 2017-2020 Strategic Plan established a key goal of supporting continuous learning within the global FETP community in collaboration with the regional FETP networks and programs. TEPHINET created a learning program to respond to this goal with the initial focus of creating a learning advisory body and a network-wide learning strategy.

The 2018 Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap and 2019 Implementation Plan call for modernizing FETP for the 21st century, for example, by modernizing and expanding FETP core competencies and curricula, ensuring high quality FETPs, supporting network-level elements, and ensuring the development of a cadre of specially trained FETP alumni ready for rapid response to health emergencies.

The new learning strategy was thus developed in response to the goals set forth by the TEPHINET 2017-2020 Strategic Plan and Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap with inputs from a wide range of stakeholders. Under the strategic guidance of the FETP Learning Advisory Council (FLAC), TEPHINET conducted a learning needs analysis and strategy development process. Sources of input on the strategy include 52 FETPs, four FETP regional networks, a global FETP alumni survey with 193 respondents, the FLAC and Learning Working Group members, TEPHINET Secretariat staff, members of the TEPHINET Advisory Board, and partners at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and others.

Strategy Validation and Implementation

A Strategic Leadership Group (SLG), tasked with guiding the progress of the FETP Enterprise on the recommendations of the Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap, is currently being constituted, with Dr. Mike Ryan (Executive Director, Health Emergencies Program, WHO) and Dr. Rebecca Martin (Director, Center for Global Health, CDC), serving as co-chairpersons. Once fully constituted, the SLG will review and validate the new TEPHINET learning strategy.

Under TEPHINET’s leadership, the FETP Learning Advisory Council (FLAC) and Learning Working Groups will hold a workshop to begin prioritizing key initiatives related to each of the strategy’s goals and creating implementation plans for those key initiatives. Afterwards, TEPHINET and the FLAC will continually monitor opportunities to address learning strategic goals and will prioritize actions based on their alignment with the goals and learning priorities of FETPs, their potential impact, other ongoing initiatives, and the availability of funding and resources.

“In the long term, we know we will be successful when learners, trainers, mentors, and alumni have increased engagement, satisfaction, skills, knowledge, and confidence to apply new skills on the job,” says Claire Jennings, who manages TEPHINET’s Learning Program. “We want to see not only improved performance from FETP alumni in applying their skills on the job, but also reduced time and costs to developing and updating FETP training solutions and curricula, as well as more FETPs and individuals knowing where to go to receive relevant support from different partners at the global, regional, and local levels.”

TEPHINET will work on continuing to build its learning network and creating joint action plans with other network-level initiatives of the TEPHINET Secretariat, including FETP alumni mobilization, scientific knowledge exchange, and FETP accreditation. TEPHINET will also continue to host and curate new learning content for the FETP community on the TEPHINET Learning Center.


Download a summary of the TEPHINET 2020-2030 Learning Strategy and related materials below.

To request a copy of the full strategy, please contact learning [at] tephinet [dot] org.