An evaluation of the global network of field epidemiology and laboratory training programs: a resource for improving public health capacity and increasing the number of public health professionals worldwide

Renee E Subramanian, Dionisio G Herrera, Paul M Kelly

Background: Given that many infectious diseases spread rapidly, across borders and species, there is a growing worldwide need to increase the number of public health professionals skilled in controlling infectious epidemics. Needed also are more public health professionals skilled in non-communicable disease surveillance and interventions. As a result, we surveyed all 57 field epidemiology training programmes (FETPs) that are members of the Training Program in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), to evaluate the progress of the FETPs, the only global applied epidemiology network, toward increasing public health capacity globally.

Methods: Data on the FETP programmes and the training they provide were abstracted from TEPHINET membership surveys and verified with FETP directors for all FETPs that were members of TEPHINET in 2012. Data on abstracts submitted to the recent TEPHINET Global Scientific Conference, on recent accomplishments by each FETP, and on quality improvement were also compiled to provide a worldwide view of the public health human resource capacity produced by these programmes.

Results: A total of 6980 public health professionals worldwide have graduated from an FETP or from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Epidemiology Intelligence Service (EIS). FETP residents and graduates participate in key public health prevention, control, and response activities. Each FETP has adapted its curriculum and objectives over time to align with its country's public health priorities. FETPs are well integrated into their national public health infrastructures, and they have many partners at the national, regional and global levels.

Conclusion: FETPs are a competent and diverse source of highly skilled public health professionals who contribute significantly to public health's global human resource needs. This finding is evidenced by 1) the training curricula that were adapted over time to meet public health's human resource needs, 2) the FETPs' continued support from internal and external partners, 3) the increasing number of FETP residents and graduates and their increasing contribution to effective public health work, and 4) the increased quality improvement initiatives facilitated through the FETPs membership in one global network, TEPHINET.