International public health security is a major challenge in the new and complex landscape of public health. In 2005, WHO developed a legal instrument—the International Health Regulations (IHRs)—that is binding on all member states. The goal is to strengthen international health security without interfering with travel and trade. The aim is to prevent, detect, assess, and provide a coordinated response to events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern.
States agree to assess their national capacity for disease surveillance alert and response and develop and implement national action plans to meet IHR core capacity requirements. They are asked to “consider strengthening human resources through training in intervention epidemiology, outbreak investigation, laboratory diagnostics, case management, infection control, social mobilization, and risk communication.”
AMP has developed the SURVEA training program to support African countries in developing skills in field epidemiology (with a focus on surveillance and investigation and response to international public health emergencies).
Destined for African public health professionals (doctors, veterinarians, pharmacists, nurses, sanitary engineers), the program involves two weeks of classroom learning—held at the Regional Institute of Public Health (IRSP) in Ouidah, Benin—and two months of distance learning.
Classroom courses cover biostatistics, epidemiological concepts and methods, epidemiological surveillance, investigation and response to international health emergencies, and specific aspects of field epidemiology. A public health survey is conducted during the training session as well as workshops on applied computing and public health communication.
Distance learning is based on a serious game: simSURVEA. Serious games are a new training concept derived from the world of video games. The use of this concept for SURVEA is to create attractive and immersive simulation exercises on yellow fever, measles, meningitis, and cholera investigation and response.
SURVEA has been developed for the African context based on three courses: