What is a Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP)?
A Field Epidemiology Training Program, or FETP, is a program that builds capacity in health service agencies (for example, ministries of health or national public health institutes) by training the public health workforce in field epidemiology and other public health competencies in the context of health delivery systems. Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programs (FELTPs) and Field Epidemiology Training Programs for Veterinarians (FETPVs) incorporate laboratory and veterinary components as part of their core training curricula.
In 1980, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began supporting the development of FETPs in countries throughout the world using its Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) as a model. The FETP initiative has become enormously successful, such that after 40 years of investment by CDC, other U.S. Government agencies, the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Union (EU), individual countries, philanthropic foundations, and others, there are now more than 90 FETPs serving more than 200 countries and territories throughout the world.
FETPs provide critically needed public health and global health security services through a mentored, learn-by-doing approach that emphasizes fieldwork and improves the effectiveness of the workforce and the systems required to provide those services.
How Do FETPs Strengthen Public Health Systems?
FETPs, FELTPs and FETPVs are designed to strengthen public health systems by:
- Increasing the number and quality of field epidemiologists in the public health workforce
- Developing worldwide capacity for timely detection, investigation of, and response to public health emergencies
- Improving capacity to collect public health data through improved disease surveillance systems and use the data collected effectively
- Promoting the use of evidence-based recommendations in public health decision-making and policies
FETPs’ Contributions to Public Health
Over the past four and a half decades, the expansion of Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs) across more than 100 countries has increased global capacity for detecting and responding to public health hazards by bringing the world closer to the International Health Regulations’ (IHR 2005) target of one trained field epidemiologist (or equivalent) per 200,000 population.
Worldwide, more than 20,000 FETP alumni have trained as the "boots on the ground" to detect and respond to public health threats including infectious disease outbreaks, chronic and non-communicable diseases, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises.
In total, trainees and alumni of TEPHINET member FETPs have*:
- Evaluated, developed, or implemented more than 8,680 disease surveillance systems
- Investigated more than 14,190 outbreaks or acute health events
- Delivered more than 11,250 oral and poster presentations at scientific conferences
- Published more than 3,710 peer-reviewed articles
*Source: TEPHINET annual FETP surveys (2019, 2020, 2021)
What is the Structure of an FETP?
Typically, FETPs are housed within ministries of health, national public health institutes, or academic institutions. Depending on local needs and resources, programs differ in their personnel structures, cohort sizes, and length of training.
FETP training follows a three-tiered pyramidal model comprising basic, intermediate, and advanced training. Basic-level FETPs, also known as Frontline FETPs, generally require three months of part-time training. Intermediate-level FETPs generally require nine to 12 months of part-time training (as intermediate FETP aims to keep trainees in their workplaces, trainees receive roughly six to eight weeks of face-to-face modules and complete work-based projects in between). Most advanced-level programs require two years of mentored, full-time training.
In the advanced programs, 75 percent of the trainees’ experience consists of field training in a country or region that aims to teach the practical application of epidemiological methods in field-based settings. The remaining time consists of classroom training.
FETP graduates are recognized, often with a certificate, but sometimes with a master’s degree (if the program is degree granting) by the institutions in which their programs function and/or by a partner university. Graduates work in areas including outbreak investigations, disease surveillance, public health program development, general public health services, and urgent health needs. In addition, many graduates return to their FETPs to serve as mentors or trainers.
Watch the video below to learn more about how FETPs help detect and respond to public health threats.