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Building a resilient public health workforce across all levels of the health sector

In order to effectively prevent, detect, and respond to public health emergencies in a timely manner, health workers across all levels of the public health system need to be equipped with the right set of skills and competencies. With the continued emergence of new diseases and re-emergence of known ones, field epidemiology is becoming more and more relevant in public health. The World Health Organization set a target for countries to have at least one trained field epidemiologist per 200,000 population.

The intermediate FETP is a supervised, on-the-job, competency-based training and service (workforce development) program to improve field epidemiologic capacity at the regional level. It builds trainees’ competencies in surveillance, data analysis and interpretation, outbreak investigation, scientific communication, and mentorship. The 9-month part-time training program involves residential training interspersed with on-job field projects during which participants return to workstations and conduct job-relevant projects to concretize what they have learned. 

On 31 August 2021, Uganda officially launched the intermediate-level field epidemiology training program (Intermediate FETP). This completed the CDC-funded FETP pyramid model in the country, which already had the national-level advanced and district-level frontline programs in place. The pioneer cohort of the program included data managers, M&E specialists, medical officers, and community health specialists from Fort Portal, Kabale, Naguru, Entebbe Regional Referral Hospitals, and the Uganda Ministry of Health headquarters. 

On 31 March 2022, in a colorful event at the Mansion Hotel in Jinja District, the first intermediate FETP cohort in Uganda graduated the 17 pioneer members.. During the event, graduates shared part of the work they had done during the training period and their experiences with the audience. The event was attended by officials from the ministry of health, the regional referral hospitals where the graduates work, the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), the Makerere University Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Support (METS) Program, the Uganda National Institute of Public Health and was officiated by Her Excellency the United States Ambassador to Uganda, Amb. Natalie E. Brown.

In their remarks, the delegates, atop the congratulatory messages, challenged the graduates to utilize the competencies gained to address key public health concerns including non-communicable diseases that are on the rise and to publish their findings widely to inform policy and interventions. Graduates returned to their workplaces to continue with their duties while putting into practice what they learned.