TEPHINET Accreditation Manual for Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETP’s)

Background

TEPHINET’s vision consists of improvements in people's health through a global network dedicated to quality training in applied epidemiology and public health practice.  Its mission is to strengthen global public health capacity by supporting well-qualified professionals in field epidemiology through training, service and networking opportunities.

TEPHINET’s strategic plan focuses on five priority areas:  1)  Assure the quality of training programs; 2)  Accreditation of FETP/FELPs and certification of FETP/FELPs graduates; 3)  Build a community of field epidemiologists and laboratorians; 4)  Facilitate information sharing and knowledge development; and 5)  Build organizational capacity and sustainability at the global, regional and program levels.

The consensus on these strategic priorities, especially the quality assurance and accreditation of training programs,  derives from the network’s common goal to increase the quality of in-service training through a continuing process of self-assessment by the programs, to assure the public that the quality of training  has been documented and judged to meet training standards essential to applied epidemiology and public health practice,  and to encourage, through periodic review, consultation, research, publication and other means, improvements in the quality of training and service provided by the FETPs.

Overall accreditation is viewed by the global network as an opportunity to align to some common values that can help the programs gain recognition and prestige as a valuable resource to support public health efforts in countries. 

Much of the groundwork that established accreditation as a priority for the global network in 2012 was laid in previous years.  This includes a preliminary consensus to move forward with the process at the Program Directors Meeting in July of 2009 and a more formal agreement at the subsequent directors meeting in Cape Town in 2010.  This agreement was further emphasized in the updated TEPHINET strategic plan distributed in February of 2011 which was based on feedback from all programs.   

Accreditation Working Meeting, July 2011

As a result of the formal agreement to move forward, in July of 2011 an accreditation working group with representatives for all regions, and the ECDC (European Centers for Disease Control), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and WHO, convened in Sweden.  The working group gathered to discuss minimum standards for accrediting field epidemiology training programs (FETPs), critical implementation issues, roles and responsibilities of the parties involved, and a timeline for initiating the process in 2012.  Before this meeting, TEPHINET gathered input from programs via a survey and shared this information with the working group.  The results of this meeting were then shared with all FETP directors to review before the program directors meeting in Lyon, in September 2011(please see Appendix A for a complete listing of working group attendees).

Program Directors Meeting, September 2011

Additional feedback and input was gathered on the working group meeting results at this program directors meeting two-months later in Lyon.  During this meeting, the discussion groups pointed out the importance of the quality of the FETP programs and the value of accreditation as an element to contribute to any quality improvement efforts.  They also highlighted the importance of balancing the accreditation criteria with the variability between programs and expectations of other country partners as well as the importance of continued, transparent communication during the pilot phase in support of an objective process.   Other comments at the meeting centered on the representativeness of the accrediting body and review team, information to be collected at the various phases of accreditation, and expected results of the process.  As a result, it was agreed to continue with discussions in the context of the regional conferences before finalizing the initial accreditation process to be piloted in the spring of 2012.   After final input from the program directors, partners, regional networks and the TEPHINET advisory board, the initial Accreditation Manual was created in January 2012 (please see Appendix B for a complete listing of attendees to the Program Directors meeting). 

Modeling of the Accreditation Process

Aside from these working sessions, other reference material for the accreditation process that had already been developed or utilized by programs and TEPHINET secretariat included:  1) the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Manual of 2005, 2) Scorecard self-assessments of 2010, 3) TEPHINET membership surveys of 2010, 4) The FETP Development Handbook and  4) the Multi-site Evaluation documents recently created for the FETPs related to the CDC ,2010 - 2011. 

Efforts made by other organizations involved in applied public health training and capacity development were also consulted to enrich and support the methods and steps proposed in this pilot.  The International Society for Quality in Health Care, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) , and Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and the Joint committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation are a few resources that were accessed ( please see the references for more information) . 

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