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A tool for quality improvement of field epidemiology training programs: Experience with a new scorecard approach

Abstract

Donna Jones1 *, Victor Caceres1 and Dionisio Herrera-Guibert2

Field epidemiology training programs (FETP) are capacity building programs that provide applied epidemiology training to public health professionals for national public health systems, emphasizing evidence-based problem solving. FETP’s have been in existence for over 30 years and there are currently 55 programs covering 82 countries. We describe the use of a new tool that assists programs in the assessment of FETP implementation and performance in order to readily identify action steps for program improvement. The FETP facilitated self-assessment used a consensus approach between an external international team and national program staff to score the level of program attainment. The process incorporated a scorecard-like diagnostic tool to summarize a program’s status across five key categories (competency-based training, field activities, leadership development, management, and sustainability). Seven country programs participated including 4 from Latin America, 2 from Africa, and 1 from the Middle East. All assessments were completed in less than 5 days and provided a preliminary set of findings and recommendations on the final day. The assessment team was able to quickly identify program areas of strength and weakness and assist programs in developing plans focused on priority areas for improvement. The process of working with an external and international team enhanced political support for the recommendations and helped provide a common vision among programs of the characteristics of a successful FETP. Our approach demonstrated early success in assisting programs in planning and was well accepted perhaps because it was a focused effort, conducted in a short period, producing recommendations and a roadmap with timely final reports. We believe the scorecard approach is a program assessment and improvement process that could be considered for other public health capacity building programs.

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