Workshop on “Developing a Strategic Agenda around Outbreak and Humanitarian Data Collection and Analytics” Convenes Global Stakeholders to Strengthen Operational Data Analytics for Emergencies

From March 20-22, TEPHINET participated in an interactive workshop titled, “Developing a strategic agenda around outbreak and humanitarian data collection and analytics,” held at the Wellcome Trust in London.

Organized by the Wellcome Trust, the R Epidemics Consortium (RECON), the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST), and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Emergency and Epidemic Data Kit (LSHTM-EDK) team, the workshop convened approximately 50 participants representing a wide array of operational stakeholders in the field of global health. The key output of the workshop was a joint strategic roadmap for the field of data analytics in humanitarian health emergencies.

Participants included representatives from the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET), International Committee of the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, World Health Organization (WHO) and its Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), and more.

“This meeting comes at a great time for the global FETP enterprise,” says Patrick O’Carroll, MD, MPH, who is currently serving as TEPHINET’s acting director. O’Carroll is the head of the health systems strengthening sector at TEPHINET’s parent organization, The Task Force for Global Health.

“We are actively considering how we might expand the range of training and experiences of FETP fellows so they can employ modern data analytics and data tools in outbreak investigations. This meeting covered a wide range of such topics, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), data standards, the use of a data hub; data acquisition, harmonization, and sharing; and data modeling and forecasting.”

On the second day of the workshop, O’Carroll gave a presentation summarizing the recently developed Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap, a framework for strengthening, modernizing and expanding field or applied epidemiology training programs worldwide. In particular, O’Carroll emphasized the energy and consensus needed to expand the range of what will be considered the new “basic” competence for FETP fellows, one of the recommendations stemming from the Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap.

“Our work on operational data analytics aligns with the capacity-building priority of the Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap, to which TEPHINET is a key contributor,” says Amrish Baidjoe, PhD, a lead organizer of the workshop. Baidjoe is a field epidemiologist and microbiologist working as the main coordinator for RECON.

“This meeting was a great opportunity to connect TEPHINET with the global network of research and operations beyond field epidemiology training programs.”

A graduate of the European Programme for Applied Intervention Epidemiology (EPIET), Baidjoe is also the current president of the EPIET Alumni Network and serves as the European regional representative on TEPHINET’s steering committee for TEPHIConnect, the global FETP alumni network.

The TEPHIConnect website houses a continuously growing database of more than 1,600 FETP alumni which includes information about their education, skills, and career accomplishments.

“The entire TEPHIConnect initiative hinges on data collection, sharing and quality in order to help FETP graduates find the best opportunities to contribute their knowledge and skills—and to help organizations looking for field epidemiologists find these graduates,” says Lisandro Torre, MPH, TEPHINET’s project manager for TEPHIConnect, who also attended the workshop.

“It’s important to note that the data-sharing principles and analysis tools that FETP fellows and alumni learn for emergencies are also useful for their careers outside of emergency response.”

Torre works with partners including CDC, WHO-GOARN, and regional FETP networks to identify skilled TEPHIConnect members to serve as responders during public health emergencies.

“This meeting was enormously useful as we seek to expand our partnerships with organizations working in the area of humanitarian health emergency response,” says Torre.