Uganda public health fellowship program's contribution to building a resilient and sustainable public health system in Uganda

Glob Health Action. 2019;12(1):1609825. doi: 10.1080/16549716.2019.1609825.


Background: Low-income countries with relatively weak-health systems are highly vulnerable to public health threats. Effective public health system with a workforce to investigate outbreaks can reduce disease impact on livelihoods and economic development. Building effective public health partnerships is critical for sustainability of such a system. Uganda has made significant progress in responding to emergencies during the past quarter century, but its public health workforce is still inadequate in number and competency. Objectives: To reinforce implementation of priority public health programs in Uganda and cultivate core capacities for compliance with International Health Regulations. Methods: To develop a competent workforce to manage epidemics and improve disease surveillance, Uganda Ministry of Health (MoH) established an advanced-level Field Epidemiology Training Program, called Public Health Fellowship Program (PHFP); closely modelled after the US CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service. PHFP is a 2-year, full-time, non-degree granting program targeting mid-career public health professionals. Fellows spend 85% of their field time in MoH placements learning through service delivery and gaining competencies in major domains. Results: During 2015-2018, PHFP enrolled 41 fellows, and graduated 30. Fellows were placed in 19 priority areas at MoH and completed 235 projects (91 outbreaks, 12 refugee assessments, 50 surveillance, and 60 epidemiologic studies, 3 cost analysis and 18 quality improvement); made 194 conference presentations; prepared 63 manuscripts for peer-reviewed publications (27 published as of December 2018); produced MoH bulletins, and developed three case studies. Projects have resulted in public health interventions with improvements in surveillance systems and disease control. Conclusion: During the 4 years of existence, PHFP has contributed greatly to improving real-time disease surveillance and outbreak response core capacities. Enhanced focus on evidence-based targeted approaches has increased effectiveness in outbreak response and control, and integration of PHFP within MoH has contributed to building a resilient and sustainable health system in Uganda.

Keywords: Field epidemiology; Uganda; health systems; resilience; sustainability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Fellowships and Scholarships / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health Administration / methods*
  • Uganda
  • Workforce / organization & administration*
  • Young Adult