The African Field Epidemiology Network (AFNET) on 7 May 2018, officially launched the AFENET Corps of Disease Detectives (ACoDD). ACoDD is a civil voluntary service of culturally competent professional field epidemiologists based on the one health approach. The aim is to ensure maximum and efficient utilization of the well trained workforce from frontline, intermediate, and the two-year FETPs in the response to disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies.
ACoDD will enhance the capacity of African Countries and Global Health Agencies in rapid and effective response to disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies. The Launch was graced by the Dr. Charles Olaro, Director Health Services MoH, representing the Uganda Minister of Health, Dr Ruth Achen. Alongside him where the WHO Representative in Uganda Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the CDC Resident Advisor to FETP Uganda, Dr Leo F. Weakland - Senior Adviser for Management and Operations at Africa CDC, Prof Mufuta Tshimanga – Chairman Board of Directors, AFENET and Program Director, Zimbabwe FETP, and Dr Chima Ohuabunwo- AFENET Executive Director, The CDC Resident Advisor to FETP Uganda Dr. Bao-Ping Zhu, said in his remarks that “We know that strong, effective and responsive human resources are critical to any country’s health system.
“This is the reason CDC is committed to developing programs that strengthen human resources for health, such as the Field Epidemiology Training Program, or FETP. The FETP model is based on CDC’s own, highly successful, Epidemic Intelligence Service program”, he added.
For over a decade now, AFENET with the support of the US Centers for Disease C and other partners has worked in many African countries to develop Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs). These programs are critical for generating human resource with expertise for detecting and responding to health threats and developing solutions so disease outbreaks can be detected quickly and prevented from spreading. With graduates from over 31 African FETPs, AFENET is well positioned to implement and manage ACoDD which will initially be structured to utilize the AFENET platform (as a pilot) and eventually be opened up to other agencies and organizations.
While making remarks, The Chairman Board of Directors, Prof Tshimaga said, “Our priority has been the expansion of field epidemiology training in the continent. Over the last 10 years, AFENET has worked very closely with CDC to support various Ministries of Health in this direction. In the network, we currently have 19 FETP Frontline programs that have trained about 3,000 frontline health workers in various issues of surveillance."
In terms of the Global Health Security Agenda target of one field epidemiologist per 200,000 population, and taking cognizance that Africa’s population in 2018 is estimated at 1.3billion, the continent needs a minimum of 6,500 field epidemiologists. AFENET has 16 advanced FETPs that have graduated about 2,000 field epidemiologist.
“The establishment of ACoDD will provide a ready team of AFENET FE(L)TPs graduates to collaborate and also redefine the Africa Health Security Strategy” said Dr. Chima Ohuabunwo, Executive Director AFENET.
ACoDD will organize and coordinate all field epidemiology training program alumni in the WHO Africa region to ensure there is a ready force on standby for deployment primarily within regions but also beyond, depending on prevailing realities and demands. The role of disease detectives is to quickly identify, investigate, and control outbreaks in a population before they have the opportunity to spread. These disease detectives will work closely with other rapid response team (RRT) members from other disciplines in line with the IHR (2005) description of these teams.