In order to meet the urgent needs of the reform and transformation of disease control institutions and speed up the capacity-building for public health personnel in China, National Health Commission (then China's Ministry of Health) officially launched Chinese Field Epidemiology Training Program (CFETP) with the support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in October 2001. For the 1st cohort, 10 talented fellows, who were also the backbone of provincial CDCs, were recruited.
Over the past two decades, CFETP has overcome many difficulties, and yielded fruitful outcomes. Four spirits and eight abilities have been gradually established and improved in the exploration of predecessors and laid a solid foundation for the rapid development of CFETP. Along the establishment of training mode with Chinese characteristics which guarantees the fellows to practice by "learning by doing", CFETP has established 25 training bases nationwide until 2021. During field training, trainees conduct public health surveillance, emergency epidemiological investigations, and applied epidemiological studies while receiving mentoring from their supervisors and field mentors.
As of 2021, CFETP has enrolled 20 advanced-level cohorts with 420 trainees and 359 graduates nationwide, and has put forward many disease prevention and control policies in field practice, which have played an important role in protecting public health and guarding health security in China.
In 2015, the Outcome list of President Xi Jinping's state visit to the United States clarified that China-US leadership reached the consensus on "Expanding the Field Epidemiology Training Program". In 2016, from the initial two-year advanced FETP, CFETP started to enroll intermediate-level cohorts lasting nine months each. In total, 239 intermediate trainees have enrolled, with about 40 trainees per cohort each year until 2021. Currently, 181 trainees have graduated and are playing an important role in disease prevention and control in their provinces.
Since 2018, as a 3-6 month field epidemiology training program, Frontline FETP has been introduced and CFETP continues to provide technical support to establish these frontline FETPs. With the National Health Commission launching the Frontline Capacity Building Program which, financially supported by the government bonds for COVID-19 control in 2020 and the Field Epidemiology Workforce Building Program for Disease Control institutions in 2021, Frontline FETPs have started all over China.
With cohorts after cohorts of the backbone of China's Public Health system trained into field epidemiologists and graduates are currently working in key technical or managerial positions in public health agencies, CFETP has made more and more milestones with professionalism and dedication to guarding health security. For the time being, three-tier FETP pyramid and network with Chinese characteristics are solidly formed and the Great Wall is built to prevent and control disease in China.
Along its development, CFETP mentors and fellows participated in many major public health emergencies response including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, H1N1 in 2009, H7N9 in 2013 etc. in China. In the battle of the COVID-19, CFETP mentors and fellows are brave and fearless. Without complaint, they charged forward to the field and fought against COVID-19. CFETP contributed to identify the contaminated imported cold-chain food could be the source of infection for local wharf porters then led to subsequent local transmission. This finding plays a key role in COVID-19 prevention and control in China.
Furthermore, CFETP actively engaged with its international partners including WHO, The Training Programs in the Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Plus Three Field Epidemiology Training Network (ASEAN+3 FETN), US CDC etc. to conduct international cooperation.
CFETP supports its international counterparts either by inviting them to China for workshop or by providing field technical support in their FETP training or during their epidemic response. For instance, CFETP provided technical support for the establishment of FETPs in Mongolia and Sierra Leone in 2010 and 2016-2017 respectively. From 2013 to 2017, CFETP had hosted six Foreign Aid Training Courses for 86 trainees from 20 Asian countries. As of 2018, 24 CFETP graduates were sent to African countries including Sierra Leone, Angola, Madagascar, and Zambia for important public health aid missions.
As one of 75 Field Epidemiology Training Programs of TEPHINET, a global network aimed at strengthening public health systems across over 100 countries and regions, CFETP hosted its first international scientific conference in 2004 and received certification from TEPHINET for its advanced FETP in 2019.
During COVID-19 response, CFETP shared its experience with TEPHINET and ASEAN+3 FETN partner programs and were highly recognized.