Connecting and Empowering Enteric Disease Investigators Throughout Arizona

In Arizona, enteric disease investigators spring into action when an outbreak occurs. They are committed to keeping people safe and work hard to respond to outbreaks while balancing other public health duties. To be effective, they must be well trained in enteric disease investigations and remain up-to-date on current practices. Recognizing the opportunity to foster a community of highly trained investigators across the state, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) sought to unify and strengthen skills unique to enteric disease investigation through two initiatives.

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The Collaborative

To improve enteric disease investigations statewide, ADHS worked with the Colorado Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence (CoE) to develop the Arizona Enteric Disease Investigator Learning Collaborative. The Collaborative aims to connect enteric disease investigators from the state and local health departments using technology to foster a shared learning environment through presentations and in-depth discussions specific to enteric disease investigations.

Together, ADHS and the Colorado CoE created a six-session video series using the Extension of Community Health Outcomes in Colorado (ECHO Colorado), an education initiative geared towards connecting and engaging health professionals in real-time knowledge sharing through an internet-based video platform.

Each session consists of a didactic presentation by a subject matter expert, a presentation of a challenging case by one of the participants, and open discussion. Topics included understanding lab testing for enteric diseases, interview techniques, listening skills, questionnaire types, case follow-up, and special case considerations.

Between February and April 2017, eighteen investigators participated in the first series with over 90% attending four or more sessions. Ten of Arizona’s fifteen county health departments and four tribal health organizations were represented. Feedback from participants showed that the series was both relevant and useful for their work. ADHS has continued offering the series to more investigators and has experienced similar success.

“The fact that there was a different subject matter expert during each meeting was great! Getting to hear from and ask questions to a different person from a slightly different field dealing with enterics was very helpful.”

“I really enjoyed participating, I feel that I learned so much and I realized that what I thought were my issues are things that other investigators also struggle with as well.”

“It would have been impossible for us to participate in this if it had been held at ADHS. This format helps us gain knowledge and still take care of the day to day needs in our health department. Thank you!”

— Training Participants

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Creating a Network

In addition to the Collaborative, ADHS created the Enteric Disease Interviewer Network, an email forum connecting enteric disease investigators throughout the state to share helpful tips and information via newsletters. It also provides a reliable platform to quickly and efficiently reach all the enteric disease investigators in Arizona.

Community of Empowered Investigators

Both the Collaborative and Network aid in the development of a strong enteric disease investigator community in Arizona. Through these platforms, investigators are able to learn from one another, identify tools and resources to improve their work, and stay informed of updates and changes in enteric disease investigations. ADHS plans to continue engaging investigators across Arizona through the Collaborative and Network. ADHS’ continuous efforts to connect and support investigators in their work will not only help improve enteric investigations statewide but also help to further develop and expand the community of empowered investigators in the state.