Building Sustainable Epidemiological Capacity to Eliminate NTDs in Kenya

This article was originally published by Children Without Worms.

A historic partnership in Kenya will allow the Ministry of Health (MOH) to generate new, robust evidence to map Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH or intestinal worms) and develop targeted interventions at the community-level in line with the national program’s “Breaking Transmission Strategy” (BTS).

With support from The Task Force for Global Health’s Children Without Worms (CWW) program, the neglected tropical disease (NTD) program in Kenya is partnering with the Kenya Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP) to strengthen the national program capacity for NTD epidemiology and data management. The FELTP and NTD programs are both part of the Kenya MOH, so the CWW-facilitated partnership leverages in-country epidemiology resources to sustainably and efficiently address the NTD program information needs.

Dr. Stephen Mwatha, an FELTP graduate now at the NTD Department, and Dr. Denver Mariga, a first-year FELTP resident supported by CWW and placed at the NTD Department, visited CWW for a weeklong training workshop on developing community-based, baseline BTS surveys to define the epidemiology, deworming coverage and WASH factors at household level in selected counties. 

These surveys will provide data that are directly linked to the BTS impact indicators and therefore, will facilitate program decisions for STH and Schistosomiasis elimination goals. Drs. Mwatha and Mariga will lead the in-country training, implementation, and analysis of survey data and help the national STH program to translate survey findings into program actions including intervention and policy changes.

Dr. Sultani Hadley Matendechero, head of the Division of Vector-Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases in Kenya said, “With the help of new data on disease prevalence, we shall work with partners to target interventions to where they are most needed, as a means of accelerating progress towards breaking the transmission of debilitating diseases like intestinal worm infections.”

Kenya has been supporting school-based deworming campaigns at scale since 2012. This new partnership will allow Kenya to assess STH prevalence in additional risk groups such as women of reproductive age, pre-school age children, and children who are unable to attend school. Armed with community-based prevalence data, the Kenyan NTD program will be able to scale-up deworming treatments to vulnerable communities.

Rubina Imtiaz, MBBS, CWW Director, said, “The partnership between the NTD program and the FELTP is a replicable, efficient model for building sustainable epidemiological capacity within national NTD programs and is a game-changer in the progress towards eliminating NTDs in Kenya and potentially, in all of Africa.”

The community-based surveys are scheduled to begin in November 2019 in Vihiga, and later, Bomet and Narok counties.

About FELTP: FELTPs are country-owned programs that develop a national field epidemiologist cadre through hands-on training or apprenticeship models based on CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) program. FELTP trainees master core competencies in field epidemiology that are vital to the practice of public health, while providing valuable public health services to their countries and regions. 

Also See

Better Data and Drug Quality Drives Children Without Worms’ Efforts to Help Eliminate Intestinal Worm Infections

The Task Force Helps Bangladesh Roll Out Plan to Eliminate Intestinal Worm Infections

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Photo caption: A field supervisor instructs trainees in the Kenyan Field epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (FELTP) on how to conduct school-based surveys in May 2018. Utilizing these trainees epidemiological expertise will be key to conducting STH surveys. Photo courtesy of Maria Nunga Thuita, Kenyan FELTP.

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