Training the Global Public Health Workforce Through Applied Epidemiology Training Programs: CDC’s Experience, 1951–2011
© BioMed Central London 2011
Published: 5 June 2011
The strengthening of health systems is becoming increasingly recognized as necessary for the achievement of many objectives promoted or supported by global public health initiatives. Key within the effort to strengthen health systems is the development of a well-prepared, skilled, and knowledgeable public health workforce. Over 60 years ago, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began the first training program in applied epidemiology, the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), a two-year, in-service training program in epidemiology and public health practice. Since 1951, the EIS has produced well-trained and highly qualified applied or field epidemiologists, many of whom later became leaders within the US public health system. In 1980, the CDC began assisting other countries to develop their own field epidemiology training programs (FETPs), modeling them after the highly successful EIS program. FETPs differ from other training programs in epidemiology in that: (1) they are positioned within Ministries of Health and the activities of the residents are designed to address the priority health issues of the Ministry; (2) they stress the principle of training through service; and (3) they provide close supervision and mentoring by trained field epidemiologists. While FETPs are designed to be adaptable to the needs of any given country, there exist many fundamental similarities in the skills and knowledge required by public health workers. Recognizing this, CDC developed a standard core FETP curriculum that can be adapted to any country’s needs. Countries can further customize FETP trainings to meet their specific needs by adding specialized “tracks” or by targeting different audiences and levels of the health system. Although FETPs require substantial investments in time and resources as well as significant commitment from ministries, CDC’s vision is that every country will have access to an FETP to help build its public health workforce and strengthen its public health systems.