During the last two weeks of September, I had the opportunity to participate in a week-long surveillance training and a week-long Ebola/Cholera Preparedness Training, respectively. Here at the CDC Zambia office I work with the Field Epidemiology Training Program. Our goal is to provide technical assistance and expertise in order to build local epidemiology capacity in Zambia. The surveillance training we conducted was geared towards surveillance officers that work in various districts throughout Zambia. These officers are accepted into a Frontline program as residents and trained on the public health surveillance cycle over the course of 3 months. The training is both classroom learning and hands-on application as residents are given projects that take them through the surveillance cycle and provide them with an opportunity to explore the data in their jurisdictions. My role during this first training was to lead excel trainings and assist with daily pre and post tests. I enjoyed the surveillance workshop so much that I feel a similar curriculum should be provided to all entry-level epidemiologists working in governmental public health in the states.
The Ebola/Cholera Preparedness Training was very intense. It was a collaboration between CDC Zambia, WHO, Zambia National Public Health Institute, local universities, and the Ministry of Health. Lectures and hands-on training were incorporated into this workshop as well. The participants consisted of surveillance officers, environmental health technicians, laboratory specialists, and health directors from various districts. These individuals make up a newly developed rapid response team that is being built in Zambia. During the Ebola preparedness portion of the training, participants were trained on triage, wearing proper PPE, lab specimen packing/shipping, setting up a treatment center, and transporting ill patients. The cholera preparedness portion consisted of a discussion about what went well and what didn’t go so well during last year’s cholera outbreak that lasted ~8 months. Participants walked through the process of investigating an outbreak and creating products such as epi curves and line lists. I could see the light bulbs going off for many people as they realized how efficient this was for ensuring data quality and tracking cases. Lightbulbs also went off during discussions about how to appropriately use the Incident Command System. My duties consisted of helping in the triage station, acting out scenarios, and helping with pre and post tests. Participants are now tasked with going back to their jurisdictions to train others.
Some interesting things to note is that we have built in “tea times” where you can take a coffee or tea break and grab a snack, someone is also asked to pray at the beginning and end of the day, and there are usually lengthy delays when it comes to gathering large groups together for training/workshops (but things come together at the end).
Sophia Anyatonwu, MPH, CPH, CIC
Global Epidemiology Fellow | PHI/CDC Global Health Fellowship Program