Gitta SN, Mukanga D, Babirye R, Dahike M, Tshimanga M, et al.
The African Field Epidemiology Network--networking for effective field epidemiology capacity building and service delivery
Pan African Medicine Journal
10 Supp 1
Networks are a catalyst for promoting common goals and objectives of their membership. Public Health networks in Africa are crucial, because of the severe resource limitations that nations face in dealing with priority public health problems. For a long time, networks have existed on the continent and globally, but many of these are disease-specific with a narrow scope. The African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) is a public health network established in 2005 as a non-profit networking alliance of Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programs (FELTPs) and Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs) in Africa. AFENET is dedicated to helping ministries of health in Africa build strong, effective and sustainable programs and capacity to improve public health systems by partnering with global public health experts. The Network's goal is to strengthen field epidemiology and public health laboratory capacity to contribute effectively to addressing epidemics and other major public health problems in Africa. AFENET currently networks 12 FELTPs and FETPs in sub-Saharan Africa with operations in 20 countries. AFENET has a unique tripartite working relationship with government technocrats from human health and animal sectors, academicians from partner universities, and development partners, presenting the Network with a distinct vantage point. Through the Network, African nations are making strides in strengthening their health systems. Members are able to: leverage resources to support field epidemiology and public health laboratory training and service delivery notably in the area of outbreak investigation and response as well as disease surveillance; by-pass government bureaucracies that often hinder and frustrate development partners; and consolidate efforts of different partners channelled through the FELTPs by networking graduates through alumni associations and calling on them to offer technical support in various public health capacities as the need arises. AFENET presents a bridging platform between governments and the private sector, allowing for continuity of health interventions at the national and regional level while offering free exit and entry for existing and new partners respectively. AFENET has established itself as a versatile networking model that is highly responsive to members' needs. Based on the successes recorded in AFENET's first 5 years, we envision that the Network's membership will continue to expand as new training programs are established. The lessons learned will be useful in initiating new programs and building sustainability frameworks for FETPs and FELTPs in Africa. AFENET will continue to play a role in coordinating, advocacy, and building capacity for epidemic disease preparedness and response.