Agreement boosts disease response in Pacific Islands


SUVA, Fiji—Modules in disease outbreak investigation and public health surveillance, and a field epidemiology project, are part of a redeveloped postgraduate qualification program that will strengthen public health capacity in the Pacific Islands region.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Fiji National University have signed an agreement for the further development, implementation and accreditation of the region’s Postgraduate Certificate in Field Epidemiology, also known as the Pacific Data for Decision Making Training course.

“We’re very pleased with this new agreement with FNU that will help in building sustainable human resources for public health data analysis, surveillance and epidemiology in the Pacific,” said SPC Director of Public Health Dr. Paula Vivili. “The fact the training will now be accredited by a recognized institution provides a way of recognizing skills and knowledge in the long term for the students.”

Alongside many partners of the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network, both institutions, SPC and FNU, play a key ongoing role in the management of this training program, which calls on real scenarios from national health systems.

The Data for Decision Making training was revitalized in 2013 in response to a call for action in strengthening capacity in epidemiology by health ministries of the region.

This accredited training program has been developed by several partners of the PPHSN: the Fiji National University, Hunter New England Local Health District in Australia, the Pacific Community, the Pacific Island Health Officers Association, the University of Guam, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

“FNU is grateful to SPC and indeed the PPHSN partners for the work that is implemented in the region, meeting a very vital health information management need via the Data for Decision Making program,” said Dr. Donald Wilson, FNU head of School Public Health and Primary Care. “Our team at FNU has been fortunate to have the opportunity over the past year, to engage all parties in discussions to amend and, in the process, strengthen the content and structure of this program, aligning it to FNU requirements and taking it through the various academic processes of the university until the amended program was finally approved at the FNU Senate in September.”

“We are now ironing out other necessary paperwork to ensure that eight students that have completed the newly-accredited curriculum are able to graduate this December,” he added.

To be eligible for graduation, students must complete five modules on public health surveillance, disease outbreak investigations, introduction of epidemiology and field epidemiology, computing for public health practice and a field epidemiology project.

Since August 2013, over 220 health workers around the region have commenced the program. (SPC)

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