Emerging disease surveillance and response

Fifth Workshop for Field Epidemiology Training Programmes in the Asia Pacific Region

11 November 2013


Field epidemiology training programmes (FETPs) serve as a capacity-building mechanism for public health systems which are in line with the Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases (APSED). FETPs are also one mechanism for countries to meet the core capacity for public health workforce in surveillance and response under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005). FETPs aims to provide on-the-job mentorship and training in applied epidemiology, including risk assessment and outbreak investigation and response. A two-year FETP is generally considered the standard, and has been implemented in eight countries in the Western Pacific Region including: Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. The Republic of Korea introduced the programme in 1999 while Viet Nam began in 2009.

However, as the conventional FETP is time and human resource consuming, it is not feasible in resource-limited settings. Therefore, shorter field epidemiology trainings, or FETs, have been introduced in Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Mongolia as a feasible and sustainable training model of field epidemiology. Joint evaluation of these programmes, coordinated by the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, was conducted with the government and external experts. All FETs were recognized as producing graduates to meet the current needs of each country. Papua New Guinea implemented FET in 2013, under government commitment and supported by national/international partners.

The Fourth Field Epidemiology Training Workshop in Vientiane, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, in November 2012 was held to share the experience and programme evaluations of FET. At this workshop, the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific made a commitment to conduct an annual FETP workshop to facilitate sharing of experiences and achievements among programmes and FET Plus-related activities.

At the same workshop in 2012, it was concluded that existing FET/FETPs and graduates could enable capacity-building for surveillance, risk assessment, outbreak alert and response. Risk assessment is a systematic process for gathering, assessing, and documenting information to assign a level of risk and proportionate response to manage public health events. Risk assessment should be conducted as a routine activity based on surveillance data or other information such as media reports. As risk assessment is currently not well-recognized or widely practiced, incorporating this practice into the FET/FETP curriculum can be a starting point for adoption of routine risk assessments.

The objectives of the meeting are:

  • to share experiences and review progress of FET/FETPs in the Asia Pacific region, particularly for the newly established programmes; and
  • to introduce and promote systematic risk assessment into field epidemiology training curriculum.