Boost for public health

03 December 2018 | Health

Jana-Marie Smith - A team of 28 Namibian medical specialists have completed a Namibia Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NamFELTP) to boost the country's skills base to respond to health emergencies or threats.

At the presentation of competency certificates this week, health permanent secretary Ben Nangombe said the training came at a crucial time. “Namibia lacks the human capacity in public health, especially in epidemiology.”

He said that “given the current state of emergency and re-emergence of diseases globally, including Hepatitis E and anthrax in Namibia, there is an urgent need to continue the training of field epidemiologists.”

The training was supported by the US government's Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS relief, and has already yielded positive outcomes.

Nangombe said the ministry is aware of the funding challenges that affect the smooth running of the programme, but hopes the CDC can continue to support the training.

He urged other development partners to come on board and said the ministry would dedicate funds to this “important work force development” too.

So far, the programme has helped improve health outcomes in priority diseases such as HIV and TB as well s other epidemic prone diseases.

The graduate residents have supported the country's health system since the programme's inception by responding to, among others, the Hepatitis E outbreak, undertaken surveillance data analysis to boost optimal decision making, and health systems research on priority public health issues.

Nangombe said research by the

residents has helped track the progress of HIV and helped confirm suspected measles outbreaks, which led to the inclusion of the Rubella vaccination as part of routine immunisations.

The FELTP team have also helped improve the capacity of other health workers in the regions with whom they work together closely.

The aim is to produce highly skilled public health experts with advanced knowledge in the field epidemiology to respond to any public health crisis.

Nangombe said the programme has thus far enrolled five groups of 35 residents made up of medical doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, veterinarians and environmental health officers.

So far four groups totalling 28

re-sidents have completed the course and another group of seven is in progress

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