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As of 2010 sub-Saharan Africa had approximately 865 million inhabitants living with numerous public health challenges. Several public health initiatives [e.g., the United States (US) President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the US President’s Malaria Initiative] have been very successful at reducing mortality from priority diseases. A competently trained public health workforce that can operate multi-disease surveillance and response systems is necessary to build upon and sustain these successes and to address other public health problems. Sub-Saharan Africa appears to have weathered the recent global economic downturn remarkably well and its increasing middle class may soon demand stronger public health systems to protect communities. The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) program of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been the backbone of public health surveillance and response in the US during its 60 years of existence. EIS has been adapted internationally to create the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) in several countries. In the 1990s CDC and the Rockefeller Foundation collaborated with the Uganda and Zimbabwe ministries of health and local universities to create 2-year Public Health Schools Without Walls (PHSWOWs) which were based on the FETP model. In 2004 the FETP model was further adapted to create the Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP) in Kenya to conduct joint competencybased training for field epidemiologists and public health laboratory scientists providing a master’s degree to participants upon completion. The FELTP model has been implemented in several additional countries in sub-Saharan Africa. By the end of 2010 these 10 FELTPs and two PHSWOWs covered 613 million of the 865 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and had enrolled 743 public health professionals. We describe the process that we used to develop 10 FELTPs covering 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa from 2004 to 2010 as a strategy to develop a locally trained public health workforce that can operate multi-disease surveillance and response systems.
Key words: Field epidemiology, laboratory management, multi-disease surveillance and response systems, public health workforce capacity building