The Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) is a major residency training program in preventive medicine and epidemiology. In 1980, the Ministry of Public Health Thailand, World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) jointly established the two-year field epidemiology program under the Division of Epidemiology. The curriculum is based on the U.S. CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS). In 1984, the Thai Medical Council accredited FETP’s graduates for the Diploma of the Thai Board of Preventive Medicine (Epidemiology). In 1998, Thailand FETP was expanded to recruit people from other Asian countries. The trainees came from a vast range of disciplines; for instance, medicine, veterinary and public health, and food safety. Since 1980, the Thailand FETP graduated 40 cohorts with 223 Thais and 58 graduates from 10 countries that included Myanmar (14), Cambodia (8), China (13), Lao PDR (6), Vietnam (8), Malaysia (5), Brunei (1), Papua New Guinea (1) and Thailand (1).
In 2004, after an avian influenza outbreak, the Thai FETP had new opportunities. The Department of Disease Control signed a memorandum of understanding for field epidemiology workforce development with the Department of Livestock Development (Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative) and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment). The Thai FETP recruited veterinarians from two departments to train in the two-year FETP. As of present, 12 veterinarians from two departments have graduated from the FETP. The FETP's veterinary graduates are the key persons who established the Regional Field Epidemiology Training Program for Veterinarians (RFETPV) that is operating under the Department of Livestock Development.
In 2008, FETP Thailand established a two-month training of trainers course to fill the mentorship training gaps experienced by many FETPs in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, and increase the number of competent field epidemiology mentors. This training has trained 39 mentors from 12 countries across the region.
FETP: NCD track
In Thailand, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a major cause of mortality, accounting for 29 percent of total deaths. More than 70 percent of the deaths among CVD patients are principally due to strokes and heart attacks; people of working age and the elderly are among most CVD victims in Thailand. Over the past five years, FETP has been one of the main organizations under the Division of Epidemiology, Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health responsible for capacity building in NCD epidemiology through the two-year FETP-NCD program. This program aims to develop field epidemiologists to be well-equipped with knowledge, skills and creativity so that they have the capability to utilize scientific data and state-of-the-art knowledge to provide policy decisionson NCD prevention.
FETP: EID Track
In order to respond to large-scale outbreaks in country, 80 percent of Thai field epidemiologists and international graduates are the key players who are able to provide early warning, detection and immediate response to outbreaks, providing measurement, guidelines, policy recommendations, and monitoring and forecasting for pandemic control.
After the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand, the Thai FETP reviewed the gaps and capacity of field epidemiologists in Thailand in responding to the pandemic. The Thai FETP identified five areas that needed strengthening and additional capacity: disease surveillance system set-up, emerging infectious disease (EID) management, risk assessment, public health emergency management and law enforcement, and risk communication and policy advocacy. Thus, we established a new learning track in FETP, namely, “FETP: Emerging Infectious Diseases Track (FETP: EID Track)”. The aim of this track is to build capacity of Thai field epidemiologists and enable graduates to apply epidemiology concepts for responding to large scale epidemics and global pandemics and manage EIDs.
Strengthening capacities of the Operations Team under the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for COVID-19:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Division of Epidemiology has been assigned FETP graduates to be team leads for the Operations Section, responsible for surveillance and investigation of COVID-19 outbreaks and adverse effects following immunization (AEFI). In addition to performing those tasks, we developed national guidelines regarding surveillance, investigation and response to COVID-19.
FETP is also the supervisor for the “Operations Data Team”, working on big data management and more advanced analysis for surveillance and investigation data, as well as preparing presentations and policy recommendations and communicating the findings to national-level officials. After the country started its COVID-19 immunization program, the surveillance and investigation team for AEFI was activated. In addition to those tasks, FETP graduates serve as supervisors for nationwide assessments of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness and epidemic forecasting using mathematical modeling.