Lessons learnt from a three-year pilot field epidemiology training programme
Problem: The Pacific region has widely dispersed populations, limited financial and human resources and a high burden of disease. There is an urgent need to improve the availability, reliability and timeliness of useable health data.
Context: The purpose of this paper is to share lessons learnt from a three-year pilot field epidemiology training programme that was designed to respond to these Pacific health challenges. The pilot programme built on and further developed an existing field epidemiology training programme for Pacific health staff.
Action: The programme was delivered in country by epidemiologists working for Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network partners. The programme consisted of five courses: four one-week classroom-based courses and one field epidemiology project. Sessions were structured so that theoretical understanding was achieved through interaction and reinforced through practical hands-on group activities, case studies and other interactive practical learning methods.
Outcome: As of September 2016, 258 students had commenced the programme. Twenty-six course workshops were delivered and one cohort of students had completed the full five-course programme. The programme proved popular and gained a high level of student engagement.
Discussion: Face-to-face delivery, a low student-to-facilitator ratio, substantial group work and practical exercises were identified as key factors that contributed to the students developing skills and confidence. Close engagement of leaders and the need to quickly evaluate and adapt the curriculum were important lessons, and the collaboration between external partners was considered important for promoting a harmonized approach to health needs in the Pacific.
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