A total of 166 FETP graduates responded to the online survey. Of those, 60 (36.1%) were females and 106 (63.9%) were males. Almost one third (n = 64, 38.6%) graduated before the year 2016. Half (n = 84, 50.6%) of the FETP graduates continued their higher education and earned a master or doctoral degree. The participants’ characteristics are shown in Table 1. A total of 10 technical advisers from Afghanistan, Sudan, Morocco, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen have evaluated the FETPs in the region. Six technical advisers had a doctoral degree and four had a master’s degree.
Engagement of FETP graduates in field epidemiology activities
Almost two thirds of FETP graduates reported that they are often engaged in activities such as managing public health surveillance system (n=119, 71.7%), analyzing the surveillance data (n=116, 69.9%), training public health professionals (n=113, 68.1%), outbreaks investigations and response (n=109, 65.7%), and managing staff and resources (n=106, 63.9%). A total of 121 (72.9%) participants reported they often use computers for specific applications relevant to public health practices (Table 2). The engagement of FETP graduates was the least in publishing research articles where only 28.3% reported that they are often engaged in writing scientific research articles.
From the perceptive of technical advisers, all reported that FETP graduates are involved in managing surveillance data, developing surveillance reports, and participating in outbreak investigations to large extent. A total of 4 (40%) advisers reported that FETP graduates often evaluate and participate in the planning and implementation of public health interventions and 6 advisers reported that they sometimes do that. When they were asked about how frequent FETP graduates use surveillance data to provide courses of action and recommendations, 60% reported always and 40% reported sometimes. Only 4 (40%) advisers reported the FETP graduates played a key role in regional-scale outbreaks. When they were asked about how often do FETP graduates provide informal consultations to MOH programs, 5 (50%) reported very often and 4 (40%) reported sometimes. When they were asked about how often FETP graduates use laboratory resources to support epidemiologic activities such as using laboratory data for surveillance purposes, 3 (30%) reported often and 6 (60%) reported sometimes
The extent to which Field Epidemiology Training Program helped the graduates to perform field epidemiology activities
More than two thirds of graduates reported that the FETP helped them much to perform most of the field epidemiology activities listed in Table 3. However, only 76 (45.8%) graduates reported that FETP helped them much to apply simple tools for economic analysis, to publish scientific articles in journals (89, 53.6%) and to develop policies or strategies (93, 56.0%).
Skills and capacity of the Field Epidemiology Training Program graduates
More than two thirds of the FETP graduates rated their skills to conduct many field epidemiology activities as good (Table 4). However, much smaller percentages of the graduates reported that their skills are good in applying simple tools for economic analysis (65, 39.2%) and writing scientific research articles (67, 40.4%).
Almost all technical advisers stated that the capacity FETP graduates is very good and the they contributed to strengthening public health system, improving the surveillance system, development of protocols and guidelines and improving health policies. Some advisers reported that FETP graduates are now placed at senior level decision making positions and have started to make a very positive impact on improving the health system. Moreover, they reported that governments’ confidence on the capacities of FETP graduated has improved manifold and the governments now rely on FETP graduates for outbreak investigation, response and surveillance activities. Although the capacities of the FETP graduates are reported to be good, some advisers reported that they are facing difficulties in showing impact due to limited financial and human resources as well as war and Siege.
The impact of the Field Epidemiology Training Program from the perspectives of technical advisers
Five advisers (50%) reported that the data collection on reportable diseases has improved much in their countries since the FETP establishment and the rest reported that it has been somewhat improved. A total of 7 (70%) technical advisers reported that the FETP has improved the outbreak investigations and response in their countries to a large extent and 30% reported that they are somewhat improved. All reported that FETP graduates contributed significantly to improvements in surveillance systems (90%). A total of 4 (40%) advisers reported that FETP contributed much and 5 (50%) contributed somewhat to national regular reports such as providing articles, editing articles, and presenting surveillance data. When they were asked about how much the FETP improved health policies and contributed to the strengthening of health systems in their countries country, 40% reported much and 50% reported somewhat.
Suggestions for the improvement Field Epidemiology Training Program from the perspectives of technical advisers
Most of the technical advisers reported that there is a need for strategies to ensure retention of FETP graduates by placing them in proper positions with good financial incentives. Some suggested that the FETP certificate should be upgraded to a scientific degree. Moreover, they recommended increasing the capacity of the programs to train more people and working on accreditation, updating the curriculum, setting a mandatory requirement for graduation, and documenting the activities and the impact of FETP graduates.