Philippines Field Epidemiology Training Program
The Philippines Field Epidemiology Training Program (PFETP) was established in 1987 as a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project with the support of former Health Secretary Alfredo Bengzon, and managed by Dr. Manuel Dayrit and Dr. Mark White, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consultant.
This program is a two-year, competency-based training, and its fellows serve as primary responders during outbreaks. To ensure that fellows gain certain competencies, the following activities are required:
- Two-month didactic phase to introduce the fellows to epidemiological principles and procedures which they will utilize during their field work
- Mentoring and supervision to provide technical assistance on study designs, data analysis, and report writing
- FETP evaluations to assess the overall performance of the fellows
- FETP conferences and workshops to strengthen the epidemiological capacities and services of the program and engage the participants in the scientific exchange of epidemiological information
Philippines FETP has been on the front lines of notable public health events such as Ebola Reston, the Baguio earthquake, the Mayon and Pinatubo eruptions, the investigation of the first reported Henipah cases in Mindanao, and special surveillance in cases such as the yearly Fireworks-Related Injury Surveillance. For over 30 years, this program has stood for integrity and excellence. The program has produced 120 graduates, most of whom serve in local health offices and occupying significant positions in Department of Health (DOH) regional and central offices, as well as local and international non-governmental organizations. FETP fellows and graduates have responded to more than 900 outbreaks and public health events. They have brought glory through numerous awards garnered at international conferences, such as Best Oral and Poster presenters at the coveted John Snow awards. PFETP has developed strong partnerships with local and international organizations such as TEPHINET, U.S. CDC, Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), and SAFETYNET. In 2017, PFETP embarked on an ambitious endeavor: to be accredited by TEPHINET, a worldwide network of FETPs. The accreditation aims to certify that FETPs follow global standards, and thus ensure the provision of quality training to its fellows. PFETP became the first accredited program in Asia and the seventh worldwide.
In 2020, fellows of PFETP were the first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. PFETP established COVID-19 surveillance in jails and conducted contact tracing activities, assessment of risk factors for COVID-19 among health workers, field work on data recording, reporting and referral system assessment in quarantine facilities, and epidemiologic investigation in the National Reference Laboratory. PFETP fellows were also assigned to the COVID-19 Surveillance Quick Action Unit (CSQAU) Data Analytics Section, where epidemiologic surveillance update reports are generated.
During the Southeast Asia and Western Pacific Bi-regional FETP COVID-19 Conference in November 2020, the PFETP training officer shared the country's national COVID-19 response strategy and the role that the PFETP played in it. In addition, one fellow's abstract entitled “COVID-19 cases in three detention jails; a case-control study, Metro Manila, Philippines, April 2020” was approved and presented at the conference.