ISLAMABAD – Modelled on the pattern of the US Epidemic Investigation Service, the Field Epidemiology & Laboratory Training Programme (FELTP) Pakistan graduated its 3rd cohort comprising of 14 fellows including two from Afghanistan here on Monday.

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The simple ceremony held in this context at the National Institute of Health was attended by eminent personalities in the field on public health including Dr Birjees Mazher Kazi, Executive Director NIH/National Technical Coordinator FELTP, Dr Jahanzeb Khan Aurakzai, Director General Health Emergency Response Network (NHEPRN), Director General Health Services of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, Balochistan and FELTP focal persons from all provinces and areas. The total number of disease detectives trained by FELTP Pakistan now becomes 33.

whereas another 18 public sector medical doctors hailing from all provinces, AJK and FATA are currently undergoing highly specialised training in Field Epidemiology.

Giving brief overview of the programme Dr Rana Jawad Asghar, Resident Advisor FELTP informed the participants that the programme is being implemented in the country since 2006 as a joint project of Pakistan’s National Institute of Health and Cabinet Division and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because of continued patronage of Cabinet Division and well as the provincial health departments, the fellows were successful in making significant contributions towards national health system including surveillance and response during outbreaks such as Human-Avian Influenza, HIV, Polio, Dengue, Hepatitis and Diarrhoeal disease etc.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Bashir Noor Mal, Director General, Afghan Institute of Public Health thanked Government of Pakistan for its continued assistance in all areas including health.

Because of shared borders, similar pathogens as well as health and socio-economic challenges, he considered this training as more useful addition to Afghan health system in comparison to the ones conducted anywhere in the developed world.

He also emphasized the need of enhancing collaborations for setting up integrated approach towards disease surveillance and response encompassing Polio eradication.

Officials from FELTP informed that besides long course of two years duration, the FELTP also responds to the specific needs expressed by the health departments and a total of 412 public health professionals have been trained on various aspects of disease surveillance and response through dedicated short courses especially during floods and Dengue 2011. On academic fronts, the fellows have conducted about 50 surveillance systems evaluations and presented 60 scientific presentations in peer reviewed international conferences winning 2nd prize in International TEPHINET conference in Cape Town 2010 and 1st prizes in EMPHNET (EMRO regional conferences) in 2009 and 2011.

Experts on the occasion said, globalisation has resulted in increased potential of rapid disease spread thereby bringing about a fundamental change in the requirements for global health. The subject has therefore, increasingly become the focus of international and transnational policy. To effectively deal with the challenge, joint working of civil society, private sector and the international stakeholders is becoming more and more imperative. This was stated by Dr. Nora Matdrigal, Acting Mission Director USAID. He also conveyed that the US Government considered FELTP as high value programme because of its effectiveness and assured of USAIDS continued assistance in future as well.