Rapid Response Training
Training qualified individuals in member states to conduct rapid, coordinated epidemiological investigations, assessments, and responses for public health emergencies in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR), such as humanitarian crises, disease outbreaks, and natural disasters.
In the last four decades, over 77.5 million people in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) have been affected by natural disasters, including floods, droughts, and earthquakes. In addition, ongoing civil unrest from wars, violent demonstrations, and disease outbreaks is affecting the EMR population, thereby increasing the region’s fragility and complexity. By the end of 2009, the EMR was host to over 11.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), while nearly 5 million had immigrated to other countries mainly due to war and natural disasters.
Hundreds of thousands of people have died due to these disasters, often afflicted with injuries or related diseases and other disabilities. Higher maternal and infant mortality rates are often associated with these events, which also increase the disease burden. Much of this suffering can been ameliorated if countries have the capacity to respond effectively in the immediate wake of disasters. With the 2005 revisions of the International Health Regulations (IHR), epidemic alert and response are critical to ensuring global health security.
Therefore in a volatile and fragile environment like that of the EMR, multinational “Rapid Response Teams” are an ideal solution to help contain the deleterious effects of emergency situations and to coordinate actions. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended RRT training to rapidly contain Avian Influenza outbreaks in South Eastern Asian and the Middle East. The idea of Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) is not new, but according to WHO assessments, the EMR is in need of better coordination of qualified individuals and increased capacity to detect and respond to disease outbreaks in a timely manner.
RRT training is a multistage, collaborative project initiated by the Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET) to fill the human resource gap and to enable member states to build their capacity in rapid assessment of and response to public health events in order to reduce human suffering.
Main Project Goals
- Improve disease surveillance, outbreak investigation, and public health responses to disasters and disease outbreaks in the EMR.
- Utilize skilled human resources in the EMR by developing a roster of well-trained RRTs at national and sub-national levels from FETP fellows and public health officials.
- Strengthen the capacity of member states to implement the 2005 International Health Regulations for global security.
- Increase linkages between public health institutions in the EMR for cross-border investigations of diseases/outbreaks, timely information sharing, and laboratory support.
As part of the first phase of the RRT training project, the introductory RRT course was announced on 12 May 2012 through country Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs) and an open announcement on the EMPHNET website. The selection committee, comprising representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EMPHNET, and FETP country offices, selected the participants according to pre-approved selection criteria Fifty individuals from seven FETP countries applied, and invitations were also extended to non-FETP countries, e.g. Sudan and Lebanon. In total, the 34 participants were from seven FETP and two non-FETP countries were selected to participate in the basic RRT training. Of the basic training graduates, 19 individuals qualified for the advanced RRT training course. These advanced RRT members then returned to their respective countries and became eligible for deployment in the field to respond to regional emergencies. In the second phase of the project, the trained RRT members also train RRTs at the national and sub-national level to further improve the EMR’s rapid response capacity.
EMPHNET has conducted both an introductory and advanced course on Rapid Response Team (RRT) training in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR). The introductory course, which took place in July 2012, included 32 participants from nine countries: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen.
EMPHNET conducted a pre-test, three quizzes, and a post-test, with a class average of 58.7%, 80.3%, and 89.6%, respectively. In addition to these scores showing a significant improvement (+30.9%), participants’ grading of the workshop demonstrated a high level of satisfaction. Comparison of pre- and post-tests demonstrates an average class improvement of 33%, with individual participant improvements ranging from 13% to 53%. In addition, based on an evaluation form completed thirty-one participants in the basic course, 9%% of the participants strongly agreed that the workshop met their expectations.
Based on the results of the basic RRT training course, 19 participants qualified for the more extensive, advanced training by scoring at least 72% on the post-test. The 19 individuals included four from Yemen; three each from Afghanistan and Iraq; two each from Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, and Jordan; and one from Saudi Arabia. The evaluation of the three-week advanced course also demonstrated a high level of satisfaction among participants.
The goal of these courses was to develop a highly qualified epidemiological RRT that will be ready to respond to any unexpected event in the region and will arrange subsequent RRT trainings at the national and provincial/governorate levels in their respective countries. This will work toward achieving the ultimate goal of having qualified regional and national RRTs in the EMR.