THE Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health is encouraging interested health care workers in the country, including those in Central Visayas, to apply for the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP).
The agency considers FETP relevant especially during the coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic because FETP graduates or “fellows” conduct Covid-19 surveillance in their areas.
“The FETP fellows are also among the frontline responders in this pandemic. Their epidemiologic skills and knowledge are useful in conducting response activities,” said Dr. Rodolfo Antonio Albornoz, officer-in-charge and director of the Epidemiology Bureau.
Epidemiology is the branch of medical science that investigates all the factors that determine the presence or absence of diseases and disorders.
“Competence in field epidemiology is vital for health professionals who are at the forefront of epidemics and public health threats, such as Covid-19. To enhance the epidemiologic knowledge and skills of our health care professionals, we are encouraging them to apply for the FETP and be our country's future disease detectives,” said Albornoz.
FETP is a two-year, full-time, field-based training course in epidemiology that aims to produce globally competent and committed field epidemiologists in every region, province, city, and municipality, and other sectors in the Philippines.
The program conducts investigations not only on Covid-19 cases, but also on vector-borne diseases, or human illnesses caused by parasites, viruses, and bacteria transmitted by living organisms that can transmit infectious pathogens between humans or from animals to humans, such as dengue, malaria, filariasis, Zika virus, and chikungunya fever.
The program also tackles food and waterborne illnesses, vaccine-preventable diseases, and other emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
When needed, the Epidemiology Bureau sends out FETP graduates in the field for epidemiological investigations and collection of human samples through oropharyngeal swabs.
The annual FETP starts in the third quarter of the year. Pre-screening happens upon submission of requirements followed by screenings or a panel interview within November to January of the following year. Accepted fellows start their training in May.
The nationwide program accepts a maximum of eight fellows per batch. This year, it welcomes its 31st batch. Albornoz said they now have five ongoing fellows and incoming trainees.
DOH allocated P4.5 million for the FETP this year to cover not only the outbreak response activities, technical assistance, and other logistical requirements of the program but also the monthly stipend, transportation assistance during field investigations, and personal protective equipment of the trainees, among others.
When asked if the FETP will affect the needed number of medical frontliners in the country’s Covid-19 response, Albornoz assured that the FETP informs accepted applicants ahead of time for endorsements and workload adjustments in their workplaces. (James Jaeson Almagro, St. Theresa’s College-Cebu Media Communication student)