Emergencies preparedness, response

Field epidemiology training

WHO contributes to capacity strengthening for detection and response to outbreaks through developing and enhancing national public health professionals’ competencies in field epidemiology.

To accomplish this goal, the activities focus on two main areas:

  • Support the existing network of field epidemiology training programmes
  • Integrate field epidemiology into other training programmes

:: Support the existing network of field epidemiology training programmes

The laboratory and epidemiology strengthening programme is the WHO focal point for Training Programmes in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET ). Established in 1997, TEPHINET aims to:

  • improve response to public health emergencies
  • support and strengthen existing field epidemiology training programmes
  • develop new field epidemiology training programmes
  • support research activities in response to public health problems and threats

In June 2002 WHO participated in and provided financial support to the global scientific TEPHINET conference held in Madrid, Spain.

In March 2002, a meeting held in Lyon, France was co-organized by WHO and Epicentre in order to prepare the curriculum planning of a training module on surveillance; and of a training module on the use of laboratory data in epidemiology. Specific training needs and objectives for surveillance and laboratory issues were defined and existing training material on the use of laboratory data in epidemiology was inventoried.

From the beginning of 2002, WHO has been participating in the inventory of surveillance training material used by field epidemiology training programmes in collaboration with the Division of International Health in the Epidemiology Program Office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A database including about 60 case studies is being updated.

The laboratory and epidemiology strengthening programme is involved in the activities of the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training ( EPIET). This fellowship programme lasts 2 years. Ten percent of this time is taken up by formal training courses and the remainder by placement at a training site in a European country different from the fellow's country of origin. WHO's participation in EPIET programme involves:

  • participating in the training sessions as facilitators
  • hosting fellows during the 2 years of the programme.

:: Integrate field epidemiology into other training programmes

Integration of field epidemiology is carried out through the development of training material, the organization of training courses and the participation in targeted training courses.

Development of training material

Training modules on surveillance and laboratory practice, based on actual epidemics and situations are developed. These case studies, containing epidemiology and public health laboratory data, are opportunities for participants to see the importance of correct methods for the collection, analysis, reporting and feedback of outbreak data. The training modules seek to present the materials in an integrated manner to emphasize the interdependence of epidemiological and clinical data with public health laboratory information. Twelve cases have been developed since 2001.

Training materials focusing on surveillance and response in complex emergencies, using real-life situations (refugee crises) are also being developed.

Organization of training courses

In collaboration with the WHO Communicable Disease Programme on Complex Emergencies, the laboratory and epidemiology strengthening programme organizes workshops on complex emergencies with countries affected by disasters.

The first workshop was held in Cairo on 27 April – 2 May 2002 with WHO Communicable Disease officers and Ministry of Health national counterparts from 6 countries in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region affected by complex emergencies – Afghanistan (3), Iraq (3), Pakistan (3) Sudan (3), Somalia (3) and Yemen (2). The objective of the workshop were to:

  • improve capacity of participants to deal with communicable disease surveillance and control issues in complex emergencies in acute and post-emergency phases
  • provide up-to-date technical advice on communicable disease surveillance and control issues
  • establish a cohort of trained field staff at country level to be supported technically in the long term on communicable disease control issues by WHO
  • train the participants to run a national workshop on communicable disease surveillance and control in complex emergencies – “training the trainers”.

Participation in training courses

Staff from the epidemiology strengthening team participate in other training programmes such as the courses organized by the Mediterranean Zoonosis Control Programmes or the Centre de Santé Humanitaire.