The United States, through the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) implemented by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC- Zimbabwe) is set to produce its first graduates in applied epidemiology in Zimbabwe. Twenty students from the University of Zimbabwe’s Department of Community Medicine presented results of their fieldwork on disease surveillance and outbreak-responses on Friday.
The program, designed to train and retain health care workers and improve Zimbabwe’s capacity to deliver primary health care, received funding support from the CDC-Zimbabwe in 2011.
“Training medical students in core public health skills are critical to ensuring a healthy nation over the long run. CDC is very pleased to partner with UZ in strengthening these students’ capacity to conduct disease surveillance, data analysis, and outbreak control,” said Peter Kilmarx, Director of the CDC-Zimbabwe who witnessed the presentations.
The students completed the pilot elective in applied epidemiology and presented their surveillance system descriptions and data analyses. “Pre-service elective for 4th year medical students and district medical officers (DMOs) trainings provide the missing pieces in the public health capacity building puzzle,” said Professor Mufuta Tshimanga, head of the Zimbabwe Field Epidemiology Training Programme (ZIMFETP). He added: “With this we now anticipate, more than ever, an increased demand for further public health training by medical graduates.”
Candidates to the training are identified and selected by the Ministry of Health. The epidemiology curricula and field exercises are integrated into the standard coursework is developed by MEPI-supported UZ and the ZIMFETP.
In addition to medical students, CDC-Zimbabwe has in the past partnered the UZ and government health departments to provide district medical officers with hands-on public health experience in gathering data for decision making, managing outbreaks, and conducting surveillance and response. The training is designed to enhance critical public health competency and to improve public health management including surveillance and response capacity at the district level by targeting individuals who will charged with managing the country’s public health programs.
The U.S. government, through PEPFAR and various agencies including CDC-Zimbabwe and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), provides broad support for Zimbabwe to address HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, and other health challenges. Among other goals, part of the intervention strategy this strategy has provided capacity building support to the Zimbabwean health sector to improve leadership and effectiveness in addressing HIV. The goal is to encourage Zimbabweans at all levels of society to take ownership of both the epidemic and the response, using approaches that include developing innovative, evidence-based program models and tools to ensure that the latest research and lessons learned are developed in Zimbabwe.
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