Recent Graduates of Cambodia’s FETP Use Their Frontline Training to Respond to COVID-19
When the first COVID-19 case appeared in Cambodia in January 2020, the Ministry of Health (MOH) had little capacity to investigate the case and conduct contract tracing — two activities crucial to track and control the spread of the disease. However, Cambodia had 16 responders, graduates of the country’s first FETP-Frontline training course, ready to step into action. After a training session, the responders became Cambodia’s first group of COVID-19 contact tracers.
Since 2011, the Cambodia FETP (called the Applied Epidemiology Training Program) has been conducting a 4-week basic epidemiology course followed by a 6-month in-service course on surveillance and field studies. In May 2019, staff from the U.S. CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and Cambodia MOH evaluated the program and recommended adding a Frontline training course. This 3-month basic course quickly prepares public health workers to support local outbreak response and is part of a three-tiered FETP training model (Frontline, Intermediate, and Advanced). In late 2019, a group of 16 residents joined the first FETP-Frontline course, which included 2.5 weeks of classroom training combined with mentored field assignments spread over 3 months.
The Frontline graduates had their first true opportunity to put their new skills into action for the COVID-19 pandemic. They quickly identified 27 connections of high-risk contacts and monitored them to control the spread of COVID-19 cases. The graduates also used the skills learned during Frontline training to help set up hospital triage systems. “Frontline is the most efficient strategy to rapidly train up first responders,” said Dr. Michael Kinzer, Division of Global Health Protection (DGHP) program director for CDC Cambodia.
As of early July 2020, Cambodia has reported only 156 cases of COVID-19 and no deaths from the disease. “In Cambodia, the FETP graduates are the boots on the ground in this unprecedented pandemic,” said Dr. Kinzer.