Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program
The Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (GFELTP) is a competency-based program established in October 2007. The GFELTP currently runs the Advanced Program, the FETP-Intermediate and the FETP-Frontline trainings in Ghana. It evolved from an initial collaboration with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through cooperative agreements with the University of Ghana, School of Public Health and Ghana Health Service. The program has evolved into a sub-regional resource center for training field epidemiologists from English speaking West African countries (except Nigeria). The GFELTP is a founding member of the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) which is headquartered in Kampala, Uganda.
The Advanced Program is a two-year post-graduate course centered around service and on-the-job learning. The program covers applied epidemiology and public health laboratory practice for scientists, physicians, veterinarians and other health professionals. Trainees in this program are working towards a Master of Philosophy degree in Applied Epidemiology and Disease Control (M.Phil). The program aims at training field epidemiologists, veterinary epidemiologists and public health laboratory scientists to take up leadership positions in the Ministry of Health and Veterinary Services to help improve on the health of the people of Ghana and beyond through outbreak investigations, evaluation of the surveillance system and data analysis. The advanced training program is made up of a 30% didactic component and a 70% field component. So far, the program has enrolled twelve cohorts and has graduated a total of 88 from 10 cohorts since its inception in 2007.
The FETP-Frontline is a 3-month on-the-job training program that focuses on strengthening epidemiologic capacity of frontline (lower level) health professionals. This program serves to strengthen the capacity of the district and sub-district level human and animal health staff in public health surveillance and response to public health emergencies. The FETP- Frontline was introduced in Ghana in 2014. It consists of 20% didactic training and 80% field training. Since 2014, the GFELTP has trained thirteen cohorts with 346 graduates across the country. The abstracts of 26 graduates of the FETP-Frontline have been presented at local and international conferences such as the AFENET, Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), GFELTP and National Tuberculosis conferences.
The FETP-Intermediate is a 9-month in-service program focused on strengthening public health surveillance, outbreak investigation and response, use of survey data for decision-making, and building research capacity at the middle level of the health system as pertains in regional and district levels in Ghana. It consists of 20% didactic training and 80% field training. This training was introduced in Ghana in February 2019 with the pre-admission workshop. The first cohort of the FETP-Intermediate is made up of 15 trainees from the Northern Zone (Northern, Upper East, and Upper West Regions) of the country. Trainees were made of staff from the Ghana Health Services, Food and Drugs Authority, Veterinary Services Department and the Environmental unit from the Ministry of Local Government. The training for the first cohort will end in November 2019.
Over 180 disease outbreak investigations have been conducted by GFELTP residents and alumni since its inception in 2007. Examples of outbreaks investigated include: meningitis, influenza A, human rabies, food-borne diseases, measles, gastrointestinal diseases, fish kill, yellow fever, pertussis and cholera. Residents have evaluated over 160 surveillance systems in the country. Evaluations included both communicable and non-communicable diseases for the regions. They have also analyzed over 160 data sets of selected diseases in the country. The GFELTP has graduated 154 out of 162 residents from cohorts 1 to 13 in its Advanced Programme. Seventeen cohorts of FETP-Frontline health workers trained totaling 486 have graduated from the various regions of the country whereas 70 health workers (4 cohorts) have graduated from the FETP-Intermediate.
Residents and alumni of the GFELTP have made a total of 249 oral and poster presentations at various conferences organized by TEPHINET and the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET). Residents and graduates of the GFELTP have also made a total of 150 oral and 191 poster presentations since the onset of its annual Scientific Conference and Competency Graduation in September 2017. In 2016, the GFELTP published its first supplement titled, “Strengthening Surveillance, Outbreak Investigation and Response: The Role of Ghana FELTP” in the Pan African Medical Journal. The supplement has 11 articles made up of projects conducted by residents and alumni. It has also published 120 abstracts in a conference proceeding in the PAMJ, 14 manuscripts as a supplement in the Ghana Medical Journal and over 60 publications in other journals such as USCDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, PLoS One, BMC Public Health, other BMC Series Journals, Journal for Interventional Epidemiology in Public health, PAMJ and many more.
The GFELTP, which has been the hub for training field epidemiologists in Anglophone West Africa, (with the exception of Nigeria) namely; Liberia, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, and Ghana, has graduated 36 field epidemiologists internationally and 118 locally. Anglophone West Africa now has a Secretariat based in Accra, Ghana. To foster and strengthen collaboration between the FETPs in Anglophone and Francophone West Africa, the GFELTP and the Burkina Faso FELTP collaborated to have exchange programmes at the University of Ghana School of Public Health in Accra and the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso respectively in 2019. Both Programmes also collaborated to have a Cross-Border Simulation Exercise in November 2021 in Accra.
The GFELTP, with the support of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, introduced the Chemical Preparedness Module into its Advanced Programme in 2019 and has graduated the first two residents who were enrolled on it.