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Field Epidemiology Training Program - About Us

What We Do: Expand the Global Public Health Workforce

The Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) trains workers on the ground to help countries build sustainable capacity for detecting and responding to health threats. We develop in-country expertise so that disease outbreaks can be detected locally and prevented from spreading.

CDC works alongside ministries of health to establish field (or applied) epidemiology training programs modeled after CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service. FETPs produce actionable information so public health workers can use science and data to detect and monitor disease outbreaks and determine public health policy and programming. As part of their mission to strengthen public health systems globally, FETPs also help countries meet their core capacity requirements for surveillance and response under the revised International Health Regulations (IHR, 2005).

For more information on the Field Epidemiology Training Program, see the Field Epidemiology Training Program Fact Sheet [PDF - 426 KB] .

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How We Do It

We work within the Division of Global Health Protection (DGHP), which supports CDC global efforts to strengthen public health systems abroad and build essential infrastructure in host countries. FETPs work to create a cadre of well-trained field epidemiologists with the necessary skills to collect, analyze and interpret epidemiological data and contribute to evidence-based decisions for rapid and effective response to health threats.

Learning by Doing

A team from the district health office and police respond to a diphtheria outbreak at a junior high school in Bondowoso District, East Java, Indonesia, 2011.  Photo by Friskila Damaris Silitonga.

A team from the district health office and police respond to a diphtheria outbreak at a junior high school in Bondowoso District, East Java, Indonesia, 2011. Photo by Friskila Damaris Silitonga.

The guiding principle of our training model is "learning by doing," a concept that is analogous to a medical residency in which physicians acquire on-the-job experience by learning and practicing the necessary skills to become capable clinicians. FETP trainees — often referred to as "residents," "fellows," or "officers" — spend only 20-25 percent of their time in the classroom, learning the principles of epidemiology, disease surveillance, outbreak investigation, and biostatistics. The other 75-80 percent of their time is spent in field placements, where residents "learn by doing." FETP residents participate in outbreak investigations, help to establish and evaluate disease surveillance systems, design and conduct studies on problems of public health concern in their country, and train other healthcare workers.

With a focus on building epidemiologic competency outside of the classroom, our model is distinct from the majority of epidemiology training programs, such as traditional Master of Public Health (MPH) programs. Our residents are typically recruited from within ministries of health, or occasionally from other ministries, such as agriculture.

Levels of Learning

Our traditional field epidemiology training program is an intensive, two-year course. However, in recognition that different skill levels are needed at different levels of a country's health system, we have broadened our training scope and impact by targeting different audiences and different levels within the health system.

For example, we developed a three-tiered "pyramid" training model to build capacity at local, district, and national levels of the health system. All levels of training are based on the same core competencies, but the complexity and length differ among the different tiers. The advanced level, two-year, training occurs at the highest levels of government. The nine-month intermediate level targets district-level public health workers and the three-to-five month basic level targets local health workers. As with our traditional model, the majority of the participants' time is spent in the field, working on priority public health projects for their country and applying what they have learned in class.

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Why It’s Important

Our training programs help address the severe worldwide shortage of skilled epidemiologists by building a pool of public health workers who can use data to detect and respond to disease outbreaks. The success of our field epidemiology training programs has advanced CDC's strong relationships with ministries of health and other partners in over 60 countries. By exchanging ideas and cultivating relationships, FETPs have laid the foundation, and, in many cases, opened the door, for CDC to establish other important health initiatives and work toward improving health outcomes worldwide.

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Where We Work

Since 1980, CDC has helped establish 55 FETPs reaching 72 countries (some FETPs are regional and extend to multiple countries) and trained more than 3,100 graduates. More than 80% of graduates work in government in their home countries and many obtain leadership positions within their national health systems (i.e., program chiefs, national directors for epidemiology, and heads of national and regional surveillance departments).

In 2015, 61 countries are participating in FETPs globally. This includes the placement of a full-time, in-country Resident Advisor (RA) for 27 two-year FETPs serving a total of 47 countries.

Interactive Map of FETP countries for 2015

For further details about a Field Epidemiology Training Program in a specific country, please click on the marker or, for a larger view of the map click here CDC-Supported FETPs, 2015.

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Our Organization

Our work is only possible through partnerships. Developing partnerships is an important element of establishing, supporting, and sustaining our programs. Ministries of health are our main partners in building workforce and systems capacity. Learn more about our partners…

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  • Page last reviewed: May 29, 2015
  • Page last updated: June 18, 2015
  • Content source: Global Health
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