TEPHINET Supports Event-Based Surveillance (EBS) Mentorship Training

Earlier this year, TEPHINET supported an Event-based Surveillance (EBS) mentorship training workshop in Kampala, Uganda from February 24-28. A similar workshop for French-speaking participants was planned for and launched in Dakar, Senegal, but was cut short due to COVID-19.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), to meet the early warning and alert requirements of the International Health Regulations (IHR), countries must develop mechanisms that specifically include event-based surveillance (EBS) in order to detect, alert, report and respond to public health events. EBS can increase the sensitivity of a surveillance system and allow countries to detect and report information or signals too small for traditional surveillance systems, such as IDSR. "Event-based surveillance (EBS) is a method by which we can detect local transmission early enough to slow the spread of and mitigate outbreaks, and this helps prevent the overwhelming of the healthcare system," says Dominique Bozarth, who works on the project at TEPHINET and who coordinated the workshop in Kampala.

In Africa, countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Burkina Faso have existing EBS programs, yet knowledge gaps remain about EBS and how to implement it. In response, CDC developed a curriculum specifically for EBS training and mentorship. The purpose of the workshop was to train participants from ministries of health and animal health representatives from various ministries such as agriculture, on the mentorship aspects of this curriculum.

The workshop in Uganda was organized with key partners including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET). Participants were from Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar, Seychelles, Uganda, and Jordan. The workshop aimed to educate participants on the use of EBS as an early warning system and launch the EBS mentorship model program. As mentors, participants of this workshop serve as key focal points and train others within their countries to either initiate the implementation of EBS programs or strengthen and sustain existing EBS systems.

“The mentorship model helps to build a pool of local people with the appropriate knowledge on EBS,” says Arun Balajee of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at CDC, who serves as the EBS team lead. “We have noticed that, due to brain-drain, when you have only one or two people who master the subject, they often leave the country for other career opportunities and the activities often stop. So, the mentorship model seems to be a way to address this issue and make sure we have enough people available to continue the EBS activities all the time.”

The materials for this workshop were developed by the TEPHINET EBS project. Facilitators covered several topics during the training, including the challenges and opportunities of implementing EBS in a country, and multi-sectoral collaboration. The workshop also included a special session on EBS in the context of COVID-19. Arun Balajee updated participants on CDC guidance for detecting and responding to COVID-19. In addition, Africa CDC representative Ahmed Zaghoul went over the implementation of COVID-19 EBS preparedness and response.