Across the Eastern Europe and Southern Caucuses (EESC), ICAP is training health professionals on the One Health approach, equipping the next generation of human, animal, and environmental health experts with effective tools for addressing a spectrum of emerging diseases.

With support from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ICAP initiated the third cohort of the EESC Intermediate Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP-I) in Shekvetili, Georgia in February 2024. Comprised of 23 residents and 15 mentors from the ministries of health and agriculture of Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, the program guides participants through a 10-month, transdisciplinary approach that aims to achieve optimal health outcomes by considering the intersections between people, animals, and the environment. The curriculum provides residents with didactic lectures, hands-on field experience, and case studies focused on disease detection, data analytics, and response.

As a part of the field work requirement of the program, participants engage in disease investigations relevant to the EESC, including seasonal outbreaks of Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), anthrax, brucellosis, salmonellosis, rabies, leptospirosis, mumps, and respiratory disease outbreaks, such as COVID-19. Addressing these emerging zoonotic diseases, all of which can be spread between humans and animals, requires cooperation between human, animal, and environmental health partners. Participants complete the program with a working knowledge of epidemiology principles, and ability to interpret and analyze public health data, evaluate surveillance systems, conduct outbreak investigations, design epidemiological studies and questionnaires, and perform data entry and analysis utilizing statistical software.

“As an epidemiologist, I anticipate that participation in the Field Epidemiology Training Program will provide me with invaluable practical experience in outbreak investigation, data analysis, and public health response,” said Ana Kurashvili, a FETP-I participant from Georgia. “I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to collaborate with peers from neighboring countries, enriching our collective expertise in disease surveillance and control.”

Oleh Boreiko, a FETP-I participant from Ukraine, said the training will lay the groundwork for growing in his career. “I am very excited about the opportunities this program provides me. I consider it very important to improve my leadership qualities.”

Since the launch of the EESC FETP-I in 2021, the program has graduated 41 epidemiologists, veterinarians, and laboratory specialists from Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan who work at national and regional levels of their country health systems. An essential component of the training is sharing individual country challenges, best practices, and lessons learned from addressing past disease outbreaks to establish a community of practice for quality improvement of epidemiology skills and practices.

FETP-I participants collaborate during training on developing One Health strategies for specific case studies.

“The Field Epidemiology Training Program holds significant importance within the domain of epidemiology,” said Naile Malakmadze, technical lead of the FETP-I program. “Residents from diverse backgrounds and experiences will undergo comprehensive training in fundamental epidemiology to equip them with essential skills for field projects…focusing particularly on surveillance data analysis, surveillance system evaluation, outbreak investigation methodologies, and the role of laboratories in outbreak investigations.”

“As we celebrate the start of the third cohort and reflect on the accomplishments of past graduates, we are reminded of the profound impact that collaboration, training, and a commitment to excellence can have on safeguarding the health of communities,” said Ekaterine Pestvenidze, MD, MS, PhD, ICAP national program coordinator in Georgia. “We extend our heartfelt congratulations to the new cohort and express our gratitude to all those involved in making the program a beacon of progress in the field of epidemiology and global public health.”

About ICAP

A major global health organization that has been improving public health in countries around the world for two decades, ICAP works to transform the health of populations through innovation, science, and global collaboration. Based at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, ICAP has projects in more than 40 countries, working side-by-side with ministries of health and local governmental, non-governmental, academic, and community partners to confront some of the world’s greatest health challenges. Through evidence-informed programs, meaningful research, tailored technical assistance, effective training and education programs, and rigorous surveillance to measure and evaluate the impact of public health interventions, ICAP aims to realize a global vision of healthy people, empowered communities, and thriving societies. Online at icap.columbia.edu

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