The Zambia Field Epidemiology Training Program (ZFETP) is a degree-granting two-year program affiliated with the University of Zambia School of Medicine (UNZA) and the Levy Mwanawasa Medical University. ZFETP is based in the Zambian National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) under the direction of the ZFETP Program Manager. The program is based on Zambia's MoH national priorities, public health needs, and existing public health infrastructure to strengthen the country’s public health surveillance and response systems for priority diseases.
ZFETP is an applied epidemiology training program, combining didactic and practicum field work, in which the residents are grounded in the academic basics of public health and assigned to field sites where they learn by completing projects that address key public health priorities. ZFETP allows holders of health-related undergraduate degrees (medical doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, environmental health officers, and veterinarians) to develop expertise in applied epidemiology and public health laboratory practice with an emphasis on solving issues of public health concern.
Graduates of FETPs will provide essential epidemiologic services to national, provincial, and district government health authorities in their country to effectively address public health priorities.
The program currently operates at two levels: Advanced and Frontline FETP
ZFETP residents in both programs are MoH or other Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) staff that are selected through a rigorous application and interview process. ZFETP selects motivated graduates and professionals from health-related careers who desire to develop their expertise in field epidemiology and gain leadership and management experience in public health.
Since 2014, when the program was launched, 24 residents (three cohorts) have graduated from Advanced FETP; and 106 residents (six cohorts) from the Frontline FETP tiers. There are currently 11 residents in the fourth advanced cohort; and 8 residents in the fifth cohort. Zambia currently hosts the Southern Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Regional Collaborating Centre (SA CDC RCC). The SA RCC aims to improve health security in the region through workforce development; Zambia FETP through guidance of its steering committee agreed to host international residents. The first international resident, a Malawian, was enrolled in the fourth cohort. Four additional international students were enrolled in cohort five; two from Malawi and two from the Kingdom of Lesotho.
The ZFETP is fully incorporated into the Ministry of Health structure under the workforce development cluster of the Zambia National Public Health Institute. In addition to the program being at the ZNPHI, FETP residents are among the first responders in outbreak investigation and response. ZFETP residents have led several high-profile public health responses and outbreak investigations, including outbreaks of cholera, typhoid fever, malaria, measles, HIV, and a COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness study. Residents have published papers in journals including the Pan African Medical Journal, The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and the Zambian Health Press, and have presented and won awards at conferences such as Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Networks (TEPHINET), and African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET).
Zambia FETP, with support from the US CDC, has employed new staff; these include an advanced FETP coordinator; a Frontline FETP coordinator; and four field mentors. The field mentors are placed at different provincial sites to provide field mentorship to the residents as well as lead frontline field epidemiology training. This has increased the program’s capacity to handle more students. With this increased staffing, the programme has transitioned from having one advanced cohort every two years to having a cohort every year so as to reach its target of one field epidemiologist per 200,000 population within the shorted time possible. Improving FETP staffing is also in line with quality improvement in an effort to get TEPHINET accreditation. In order to ensure sustainability, the new positions for the programme have been included in the Zambia National Public Health Workforce Development structure that is being developed under the National Public Health Institute.