Yemen Field Epidemiology Training Programme: A Tool for Strengthening the Public Health Workforce

Abdulwahed Al Serouri (1), Aisha Jumaan (2) and Abdulhakem Alkohlani (1) - 1. Yemen Field Epidemiology Training Programme, Ministry of Public Health and Population, Sana’a, Yemen (correspondence to: Abdulwahed Al Serouri: 2. Independent Consultant, Seattle, Washington, United States of America.

Background: The shortage of skilled public health workers, especially epidemiologists, remains an important challenge for building effective public health systems in many low-income countries, including Yemen. To address this need, in 2011 the Ministry of Public Health and Population established the Yemen Field Epidemiology Training Programme (Y-FETP). Aims: To describe the Y-FETP and its strengths and challenges in addressing Yemen’s National Health System (NHS) needs.

Methods: We describe the structure and functions of the Y-FETPs and analyse the achievements and challenges of the first 7 years of programme implementation as they relate to the NHS.

Results: The Y-FETP is a postgraduate competency-based training with the objective of strengthening capacity in field epidemiology so that events of public health importance can be detected and investigated in a timely and effective manner. Since its establishment, the Y-FETP has successfully trained 30 health professionals in advanced field epidemiology. Furthermore, trainees investigated over 100 outbreaks, analysed and evaluated 95 surveillance systems, conducted 30 planned studies and presented 70 oral and poster presentations at national and international conferences. The main challenges are low retention of graduates by the NHS and financial unsustainability.

Conclusions: The Y-FETP has strengthened the capacity of the Yemen health workforce and has been instrumental in supporting the NHS, especially during the war and the current crisis and health emergency as the security situation deteriorated and access to outside experts becomes limited. The programme provides a practical example of health systems strengthening through health workforce capacity development that can be replicated in countries with similar health workforce capacity challenges.

Keywords: Field epidemiology training, Yemen, health workforce, health systems strengthening