Investing in the public health workforce capacity has led to significant progress in improving training, education, and better health systems. Such investments should focus on developing and training existing staff and attracting new talents to the field. However, the prospects of investing in the public health workforce capacity in the Eastern Mediterranean Region’s EMR also depends on the political and economic stability of the region, as well as the availability of resources.
To discuss this topic further, EMPHNET held a webinar titled “Investing in Public Health Workforce Capacity in the Eastern Mediterranean Region: Progress, Lessons, and Prospects” on Tuesday, February 21, 2023. The 90-minute session offered a space to reflect on the educational needs of health systems, as well as regulatory and professional aspects pertinent to the topic.
The sessions were presented by three subject matter experts, namely: the President of the Agency for Public Health Education Accreditation (APHEA), Professor John Middleton, the Executive Director of the International Academy of Public Health (IAPH), Dr. Haitham Bashier, and the Chairperson Community Medicine Council of the Arab Board of Health Associations, Dr. Elsheikh Badr. The session was moderated by Public Health Expert and Professor at Baghdad University, Iraq, Dr. Faris Lami.
In his presentation titled “Public Health Education and Practices About Essential Public Health Functions”, Prof. Middleton highlighted the importance of establishing a robust and adequately funded public health system and profession at both the local and national levels. He stated that the World Health Organization (WHO) had identified several essential public health functions that include monitoring and responding to health hazards, health promotion, disease prevention, equitable financing, advocacy, and communication. Additionally, Prof. Middleton emphasized the need to professionalize the public health workforce. He also spoke about the accreditation of continuing professional development, curriculum validation, and program accreditation by organizations such as the Agency for Public Health Education Accreditation (APHEA), can help achieve these goals. Finally, Prof. Middleton highlighted the multidisciplinary nature of the public health profession and the importance of developing competencies and standards to ensure a well-resourced and effective public health system.
From his end, Dr. Haitham Bashier gave a presentation titled: “Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) as an example of the capacity building program for the health workforce”. He stated that the success of FETPs makes them a great example of capacity building for the health workforce. By developing field epidemiologists and public health system surveillance officers at all levels of a country's health system, the FETP has significantly impacted the global health systems significantly.
Dr. Bashier also described the FETP as a competency-based training and service program that aims to develop field epidemiologists and public health system surveillance officers at all levels of a country's health system and that this program operates on a three-tiered training model that emphasizes field practice and service delivery, with mentoring as a crucial component.
He also emphasized that the graduates possess a range of competencies enabling them to manage surveillance data, studies, investigate outbreaks, respond to emerging threats to public health, monitor public health events, communicate, and plan effectively. The program is tailored to individual countries’ and regions' needs and conditions and is supported by networking platforms like regional conferences, workshops, guidelines, and others.
In this session's third and final presentation, Dr. Elsheikh Badr discussed the context of the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR), its priorities, and the framework for Public Health Workforce (PHWF) capacity. He also highlighted the remaining challenges, opportunities, and ways to enhance workforce capacities. Some topics he touched on included addressing the regulation status problem, standardizing public health practice, capacity for networking and association, and raising the profile of the public health profession. Additionally, he discussed the prospects of transforming public health education, regionalizing through exchanges, networking, and professionalizing public health education through accreditation, linking up to practice and regulation, and establishing the highest professional degree. Finally, he emphasized the need for funding and resources, an enabling environment, health system commitment and political support.
Following the presentations, Dr. Faris Lami facilitated the Q&A session, where participants and panelists engaged in the discussion. He then concluded the session by thanking the speakers and the attendees for their participation.
A total of 130 participants attended the webinar, deeming it another success in the EMPHNET WEBi Series