To meet the development needs of the preventive medicine system and train public health workers in disease surveillance and response, the Viet Nam Ministry of Health (MoH) established the Viet Nam Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) in 2007.
The program has been positioned at the General Department of Preventive Medicine within the Viet Nam MoH. The management structure and staff of Viet Nam FETP have been in place since 2007 and consist of the Viet Nam FETP steering committee, the FETP management unit, and the FETP office. The steering committee is chaired by a leader of the MoH who directs, manages, and coordinates FETP training activities and develops training materials for the program. The FETP management unit is led by a member of the General Department of Preventive Medicine and is responsible for the management and coordination of FETP training activities according to approved targets.
The FETP office is responsible for implementing initiatives of the program and is subject to the direction of the FETP steering committee. Viet Nam FETP has been serving as an effective education system that helps produce a highly qualified public health workforce through its emphasis on learning by doing. The first FETP cohort consisted of five fellows in 2009. The program is designed in modular form as per the developed curriculum framework. Seven to eight theoretical modules are presented in a two-year course, which incorporates required fieldwork. The key modules include: outbreak investigation, public health surveillance, biostatistics, epidemiologic methods, and scientific communication. Field assignments are conducted at the national, regional, or local level. In the field, participants of the program practice outbreak investigations, disease surveillance, field research, and analysis of surveillance data under the guidance of field supervisors and mentors.
To further increase its impact, Viet Nam FETP has developed and implemented short courses for provincial and district staff to complement the basic two-year training program. These initiatives reflect the Ministry of Health’s central strategy for strengthening epidemiological capacity that is consistent with the Master Plan for the FETP in Viet Nam. Partnerships have been proactively developed with major international partners such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but also with related training programs through the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET) and the South Asia Field Epidemiology and Technology Network (SAFETYNET). Viet Nam also successfully hosted the bi-regional TEPHINET Scientific Conference in 2013 and the ASEAN+3 Field Epidemiology Training Network meeting in 2014. Viet Nam FETP has also exchanged staff and trainees with other FETPs in China and Japan.
By December 31, 2017, the program has welcomed eight cohorts consisting of 50 fellows, 23 of whom have already graduated. The program has also provided training for 554 provincial and district health staff members through its 27 three-week training courses as well as 80 general and animal health staff members at the provincial level through three-month courses.
Since 2009, the FETP has contributed substantially to Viet Nam’s capacity for disease control and surveillance. It has played a key role in the nation’s response to disease outbreaks of cholera, avian and pandemic influenza, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, and inflammatory palmar plantar hyperkeratosis syndrome (IPPH). The FETP has also helped to establish surveillance for enterovirus infections, diphtheria, and IPPH, in addition to providing short training courses for provincial- and district-level preventive medicine staff.
Viet Nam’s FETP also aims to be a strong contributor and partner to help advance the understanding of public health events. Its fellows have presented scientific papers at eight regional and global international scientific conferences. This includes the presentation of 90 papers at TEPHINET conferences and 21 papers at national and international conferences. Trainees have collectively published a total of 10 papers in international peer-reviewed journals and 14 papers in Vietnamese journals. These efforts reflect the scientific merit and public health importance of the projects conducted by fellows.