08 February 2019 - In an aim to support and enhance participatory epidemiology (PE)/ participatory disease surveillance (PDS) methods in East Africa, FAO facilitated a regional workshop for 11 PE/PDS experts in Nairobi, Kenya. The two days training happened from the 9th- 10th January 2019 with participating experts coming from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania.
The workshop was organized under the Phase II of the FAO/GLEWS Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) project. The project is aimed at developing veterinary epidemiology capacities to strengthen animal health programs at country and regional levels in Africa, Eurasia, and Asia. It supports countries in assessing their epidemiologic gaps and training needs, and enhancing capacities in applied veterinary epidemiology, rapid risk assessment and disease search.
The workshop facilitated the development of a training strategy for Training of Trainers (ToT) to enable cascading knowledge and skills in PE/PDS at the national level in the four targeted countries. Participants of the workshop consisted of active government veterinary service staff in possess of experience in field investigations and/or field epidemiology and in a position to promote of influence the adoption of PE/PDS approaches in their respective countries.
“PE/PDS approaches have played crucial roles in past and current disease control activities, such as the eradication of Rinderpest in the region, and the cost-effective benefits for enhancing the sensitivity, representativeness, and timeliness of disease detection and reporting in complementing routine surveillance,” said Dr. Oyas, Head of Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics of the Kenyan Directorate of Veterinary during the opening of the workshop.
During the workshop, past and ongoing PE/PDS initiatives in the four countries were presented and reviewed with the objectives of: defining key challenges and best practices for adoption of PE/PDS approaches in the region; identifying existing feasible mechanisms to integrate PE/PDS into routine surveillance system; and developing a tool box to facilitate a ToT on PE/PDS.
The participants worked in integrated teams to address the objectives of the workshop. Among the key challenges identified were difficulty of analyzing data gleaned through PE/PDS activities and various potential biases linked to the syndromic nature of the data.
Participants also identified feasible mechanisms to sustainably integrate PE/PDS initiatives into conventional surveillance, such as institutionalizing these approaches within the Ministry’s annual surveillance workplan along with associated budget to implement activities. The leveraging of modern technologies (e.g. mobile applications) to increase and improve data quality and communication processes were also highlighted as key to the application of PE/PDS nation-wide and increase surveillance sensitivity and timeliness. Incorporating PE/PDS into the curricula of veterinary schools, trainings and mentorship for frontline veterinary practitioners enrolled under In-Service Veterinary Epidemiology Training Programs (ISAVET) was also identified as an achievable integration strategy.
Principles of adult learning and participatory training methods to handle communities (including simulations and role-play exercises) as well as interviewing approaches (including semi-structured interviews, community interviews, key informant interviews, triangulations/probing) were suggested as central skills for PE/PDS animal health practitioners. Quantitative and qualitative methods for assessing perceptions and attitudes to disease were also highlighted as essential skills for PE/PDS practitioners.
The workshop outputs summarized that PE/PDS complement conventional surveillance system and strengthen the animal health surveillance system overall is cost effective. Nonetheless, a framework that will showcase the cost-effectiveness of PE/PDS strategy is needed to promote integration of relevant methods in surveillance mechanisms amongst national veterinary services in the region, and to encourage, and lobby for mobilization of national and external resources.