As stated in the Programme Structure, 65% of the programme is spent in the field at institutes at either the national or provincial level. These organizations typically are responsible for communicable disease control, surveillance, epidemiology and other public health activities. Fellows may return to their province upon completion of each segment of instruction, or may reside in another province or institution depending upon their work situation that was agreed upon with the Department of Health before enrollment in the programme.
Prior to placement, these sites are evaluated to determine if there is support for fellows including access to surveillance data, opportunities to assist in outbreak or other acute event investigation, technological and epidemiological technical assistance. During the field assignment, fellows will provide service to the department of health by conducting outbreak investigations, surveillance activities, economic analysis, and other public health practical applications of the skills and knowledge learned during the coursework. These applications are detailed in the following list which details the field requirements that must be achieved within the 2-year programme period.
- Outbreak Reports (2+)
- Research Study Protocol (1)
- Surveillance Evaluation Report (1)
- Peer Reviewed Manuscript (1)
- National Bulletin Article (2+)
- Abstract / Oral or Poster Presentation (1+)
- Activity Reports for Training (1)
- Economic Analysis Report (1)
- Data Analysis Summary Report (1)
- Analysis Report of Chronic Disease or Other Threat (1)
Supervision and mentoring in the field is provided in two different ways. Primary supervision is conducted by the onsite supervisor, who is responsible for management and support, and some may serve in different capacities in regard to technical supervision. Other activities that the field supervisor might assist in include:
- Sharing knowledge of the institutions in which the fellow will work
- Introducing the fellow to other key professionals
- Supports fellows access to surveillance data and opportunities for field investigations
- Identifying learning opportunities for fellows and encouraging the fellow to participate
- Assisting the fellow in establishing goals and timelines for completing field requirements and provides the necessary managerial support
Mentoring of fellows in the field epidemiology is predominantly provided by the staff at NICD, CDC and NDOH. These persons will be responsible for providing consultation to fellows during surveillance, outbreak investigations, and other public health activities. The primary difference between field supervisors and technical mentors is that mentors are experienced field epidemiologists, who have a background in descriptive and analytic epidemiology, biostatistics, and conducting surveillance. These persons will be assigned to each fellow at the beginning of the programme and will serve as the points of contact both from a distance and periodically in the field when assistance is needed.
Sites are selected each year within South Africa based upon the candidates that are nominated from their representative provinces and institutions. These sites may consist of Provincial Departments of Health or different programmatic areas within NDOH, NICD, or NHLS. An agreement is signed between the site and the SAFELTP to ensure that a fellow will receive adequate supervision and support during their 2-year programme. There will be regular monitoring and appraisal of these sites to determine if they are meeting the needs of the individual fellows and the broader objectives of the programme. To accommodate the needs of the fellows and departments of health, fellows return to their representative province or institution whenever possible so that they can maintain their position within the organization.
Public Health Assistance
In the event of an outbreak, acute health event, international crisis, or other epidemiological activity, departments of health may request assistance from the SAFELTP. This situation may require technical assistance from fellows in other provinces or programs than the area requesting assistance.
- The SAFELTP will determine if these activities are appropriate for fellows based upon the following criteria:
- Public health importance and scientific interest
- Opportunity for experience and learning for program fellows
- Permission from the National Department of Health to participate in the activity
- Financial support available to finance fellow participation in the activity
- Support and assistance available from the requesting department of health during the activity.
- If the activity is deemed appropriate by the SAFELTP office,
- The program will advertise the activity to all fellows currently enrolled in the program.
- Interested fellows will express their interest in participation in the activity. NOTE: Prior to this, fellows must obtain permission from their field supervisor or other applicable authority before accepting the assignment.
- A decision will be made as to what fellow will be assigned based upon factors such as availability, experience, etc.
- These assignments typically last at least 2 weeks, but can be longer in duration depending upon the complexity of the activity. An estimation of the time required to complete the activity should be provided from the requesting department of health to the fellow to include when obtaining permission. Longer assignments may require special arrangements by the requesting department of health for compensation, benefits, etc.
- An agreement may be required before the fellow travels to the related area between the requesting department of health and the SAFELTP regarding areas of responsibility, data ownership, logistics, indemnity and accountability.
- Upon completion of the activity, each fellow should prepare a detailed report first to the SAFELTP office. Once this report has been approved, it will be disseminated to requesting and host departments of health for their records. An example of this report is included in the appendices.