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Pan Afr Med J. 2011;10 Supp 1:14. Epub 2011 Dec 15.

Public health laboratory systems development in East Africa through training in laboratory management and field epidemiology.

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  • 1Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


Laboratories are integral to the delivery of quality health care and for public health functions; however laboratory systems and services are often neglected in resource-poor settings such as the East African region. In order to sustainably strengthen national laboratory systems in resource-poor countries, there is a need to train laboratory personnel to work in clinical as well as public health laboratories. In 2004,Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and South Sudan began training public health laboratory workers jointly with field epidemiologists in the Kenya Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP), and later through the Tanzania FELTP, as a strategy to strengthen public health laboratories. These programs train laboratory epidemiologists through a two-year public health leadership development course, and also offer various types of short course training for frontline staff. The FELTP laboratory graduates in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Sudan are working in their respective countries to strengthen public health laboratory systems while the short course participants provide a pool of frontline implementers with the capacity to support the lower tiers of health systems, as well as serve as surge capacity for the regions and the national level. Through training competent public health laboratory workers, the East African ministries of health, in collaboration with other regional partners and stakeholders are now engaged in developing and implementing a holistic approach that will guarantee an overall strengthening of the health system by using well-trained public health laboratory leaders to drive the process. Strengthening public health laboratory medicine in East Africa is critical to improve health-care systems. The experience with the FELTP model in East Africa is a step in the right direction towards ensuring a stronger role for the laboratory in public health.

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