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Africa Influenza Surveillance Advances with Recent Data Management Training

International Program Highlight

Dr. Richard Njouom presenting on data management techniques used in Cameroon.

Dr. Richard Njouom presenting on data management techniques used in Cameroon.

Recently, the CDC’s Influenza Division in partnership with the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) hosted a Data Management Training Course for influenza surveillance data managers and epidemiologists at the NICD training facility in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The primary goal of the course was to help data managers and epidemiologists establish, maintain, and improve influenza surveillance systems by teaching data management and analysis methods. The course convened 30 participants representing 20 African countries along with instructors from agencies such as CDC, NICD, World Health Organization Africa Regional Office (WHO AFRO) and WHO Headquarters.

The course format was a mixture of short lectures and hands-on exercises which allowed participants to gain knowledge and skills to use with their own teams. The course topics included: building a database from scratch; data entry controls and data cleaning; quality assurance and control; data analysis; collection and analysis of risk factor data; understanding of the utility of baselines, risk ratios, and odds ratios in data interpretation; and presenting and reporting data for public health action.

Attendees working on exercises during the course.

Attendees working on exercises during the course.

Participants were asked to bring their most recent 12 months of seasonal influenza surveillance data and to integrate these data into a database to fit their surveillance system. The participants learned how to use software to design and incorporate quality checks, and how to set up controls and data validation rules. They also learned how to perform epidemiologic analyses and the utility of presenting those analyses in an easy-to-interpret fashion to public health practitioners and decision makers. They also took advantage of the training to share processes and techniques used to gather data and tips to maintain high standards of data quality and control. The WHO FluNet information and links were of particular interest to participants.

During the course, they toured the NICD Data Management Centre. The tour provided the participants with a look at how NICD enters, stores and utilizes respiratory disease surveillance data. Many participants thought the Centre’s processes were very effective and wanted to see if they could implement some of these same methods in their countries.

On the last day of the training, representatives from Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and Zambia graciously offered to present how they plan to apply their new skills to their own datasets. Some participants showed how what they learned during the training will make the process of creating weekly graphs and charts more efficient.

Comments from participants about the course were very positive and indicate the training was a success.

Mr. Henry Njuguna presenting on data management techniques used in Kenya.

Mr. Henry Njuguna presenting on data management techniques used in Kenya.

“Being among partners working on influenza surveillance in Africa was one of the most exciting experiences I have had during my years at CDC,” says Jazmin Duque from CDC Influenza Division. “It was humbling to see the dedication of the training participants. Everyone was engaged in the topic at-hand and eager to learn and share their experiences. We had a hard time getting people to stop working, even when we were being called to break and grab a bite to eat,” she recalls.

In short, the Data Management Training Course, held in November 2011, proved to be interesting, challenging, and educational for both participants and instructors. The information shared during the training course will help countries improve data collection, management, and analysis and contributes to the overall goal of building capacity to establish strong influenza surveillance systems throughout Africa.

Photos courtesy of Deborah Caselton (CDC-Kenya).