The roots of the Canadian Field Epidemiology Program were established in the early 1970s when the Laboratory for Hygiene of Health and Welfare Canada recognized the need to enhance its public health and surveillance activities. This need was also mirrored at the provincial level, and thus a dialogue began between federal and provincial stakeholders. In the fall of 1973, a three-week course in “Applied Epidemiology for Canadian Epidemiologists” was held in Ottawa. This Canadian-U.S. epidemiology course was jointly coordinated with consultants from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ran for three years.
In 1975, at the request of the provinces and territories, Health and Welfare Canada formally established the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) within the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control (LCDC). Modeled after the U.S. CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), today’s program maintains its original structure, providing two years of professional development in applied epidemiology by learning through service. Over the years, additional training modules have been added and there is now more one-on-one coaching for field epidemiologists. In 1997, FETP expanded its capacity to provide service by becoming a founding member of the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET).
In 2003, the program’s name was changed to the Canadian Field Epidemiology Program, to better reflect that, in addition to training, CFEP provides an indispensable service to Canadians. In 2004, CFEP became part of the newly established Public Health Agency of Canada. In 2016, CFEP was accredited by TEPHINET. TEPHINET accreditation signifies that CFEP meets the minimum standards for FETPs in the areas of: management, infrastructure and operations; integration with public health service and value; staffing and supervision; and selection and training of residents.
CFEP field epidemiologists are the most stable source of expertise for outbreak response in Canada. On average, they provide 400 person-days per year of surge capacity to Canadian jurisdictions.
CFEP field epidemiologists and alumni have been involved in preparedness and response activities related to unexpected and unanticipated public health events in recent years: SARS, H1N1, Ebola, migrant health issues, Zika, the opioid crisis, extreme weather events, etc.
CFEP field epidemiologists have demonstrated over the years that they are resilient and empowered individuals capable of producing results in rapidly changing and stressful environments. They develop and polish their technical skills and field-readiness competencies to be well informed and as prepared as possible for facing current and future public health challenges that result from our complex and evolving world. In addition, they are supported by a seamless, supportive and responsive infrastructure.