Outbreaks of communicable diseases such as the Avian Influenza A (H5N1) virus, Ebola, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and others throughout the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR), have contributed to compromising the health status of some of the region’s communities.
Coupled with the socio-political unrest that this region is home to, the availability of healthcare facilities meeting the pressing needs of refugees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and other underprivileged communities remains a challenge. Such challenges are not foreign to Jordan, a country that is home to a large population of Syrian refugees.
To meet such challenges and respond to the pressing need to foster multi-sectoral coordination in the event of an outbreak and ensure that best practices are followed before the outbreak occurs, EMPHNET joined forces with the Jordanian Ministry of Health (MoH) and the National Center for Security and Crisis Management (NCSCM) to improve the capacities of public health professionals in the areas of rapid assessment and response in Jordan.
To this end, it conducted a five-day training workshop titled National Rapid Response Training in Jordan between March 12 – 16, 2017. Held at the Kempinski Hotel in Amman, the workshop’s sessions included the simulation of scenarios featuring the 2012 cases of MERS-CoV. Through discussions about these cases, light was shed on the knowledge gaps that need to be filled in areas of surveillance and rapid response. For the purposes of these discussions, participants were divided into groups and each group was assigned a designated facilitator to guide and assist them in their analysis and review of cases as they occurred during the training.
Sessions focused on how to conduct an effective outbreak investigation and how to improve the security of dangerous samples. They also highlighted the need for reducing the likelihood that persons can obtain dangerous pathogens from outbreaks by using problem-based learning in an interactive group setting.
This practical nature of the workshop enabled participants to enhance their team-building capacities in order to trace cases, conduct effective risk communication and assessment, and create an effective outbreak and control team that has the capacity to find and trace cases within an outbreak.
Other areas discussed during the workshop included crises management and the top ten priorities of intervention, the determination of outbreak control measures, team coordination, the role of laboratories in outbreak investigations, and other planning and logistic issues that may affect the investigation.
To ensure that the workshop provides a comprehensive and coordinated approach to outbreak investigations and rapid response, its participants were selected from different sectors relevant to the field. More specifically, 24 public health professionals from the Jordanian MoH, the Royal Medical Services (RMS), the NCSCM, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), the Jordan Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Forensic Laboratory Department (FLD), and hospitals participated in the training.
Participants included public health physicians, veterinarians, laboratory personnel, applied epidemiology professionals, among other field specialists. The aim of having such a diverse participation base was to ensure that discussions were handled from different viewpoints, with the premise that each participant brings a different angle to the discussion based on his/her scope of work.
Discussions were, therefore, insightful as they focused on the interaction and communication amongst different sectors involved in the rapid response process, alongside other multi-sectoral issues, while experts in the fields of surveillance, outbreak response, epidemiology, communication and data management from EMPHNET and MoH facilitated these discussions.
All in all, this training was conducted to respond to a pressing need to have a skilled multi-sectoral rapid response team in Jordan that has the skills to provide a more comprehensive approach to outbreak response. It is anticipated that participants in this workshop will continue to communicate with each other to provide a more proactive as opposed to reactive response to potential health threats affecting Jordan and the EMR. After all, the earlier detection of outbreaks will prevent catastrophic outcomes that can occur at a later stage.