Evaluation of a New Field Epidemiology Training Program Intermediate Course to Strengthen Public Health Workforce Capacity in Tanzania

Public Health Rep. 2021 Sep-Oct;136(5):575-583. doi: 10.1177/0033354920974663. Epub 2021 Feb 4.


Objectives: Sub-Saharan Africa faces a shortage of skilled epidemiologists to prevent, detect, and respond to health threats. Tanzania has implemented one of the first Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) Intermediate courses in Africa. This course aims to strengthen health workforce capacity in surveillance system assessment, outbreak investigation, and evaluation, prioritizing HIV control. We conducted an outcome evaluation of this new course.

Methods: We used a pre/post evaluation design using data from 4 cohorts of trainees who took the FETP Intermediate course from 2017 to 2020. We conducted knowledge assessments before and after each cohort and combined those results. Outcomes included knowledge and self-rated competency and trends in integrated disease surveillance and response (IDSR) data. We collected data through tests, field assignments, exit interviews, and data audits. We compared the mean change in pre-/posttest scores using linear regression and 95% CIs. We used content analysis to summarize exit interviews.

Results: Fifty-three FETP trainees from 10 regions enrolled in the FETP Intermediate course, and 52 (99.0%) completed the course. We found substantial increases in mean knowledge (44.0 to 68.0 points) and self-rated competency (4.14 to 4.43) scores before and after the course. Trainees evaluated 52 surveillance systems and 52 district HIV care programs, and 39 (75.0%) trainees participated in outbreak investigations. From before to after cohort 1, timeliness and completeness of IDSR reports increased from 4.2% to 52.1% and from 27.4% to 76.5%, respectively. Course strengths were quality of instruction, individualized mentoring, and practical skills gained. Challenges were mentor availability, limited time for data analysis practice, and balancing work and field assignments.

Conclusions: The Tanzania FETP Intermediate course substantially improved trainee knowledge and helped to improve local data quality and reporting. This course is a promising model to strengthen subnational capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to public health threats in Africa.

Keywords: HIV; field epidemiology; global health security; health workforce development; program evaluation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Capacity Building / organization & administration*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Epidemiology / education*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / therapy
  • Humans
  • Knowledge
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Professional Competence
  • Public Health / education*
  • Tanzania
  • Workforce / organization & administration