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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 1587-1591

Evaluation through outbreak simulation exercise points to the need for considerable improvement in the capacity of peripheral health workers for outbreak detection and response, South India, 2018

1 ICMR School of Public Health, National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Kattankulathur, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Karishma K Kurup
ICMR School of Public Health, National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_1702_20

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Background: Outbreaks are emergencies, requiring skilled peripheral health workers in the health system. Given the lack of evaluation of the knowledge and practices of peripheral health workers regarding outbreak investigation and response, we surveyed to estimate the performance level of health workers in outbreak detection and response. Methods: We developed a simulation exercise based on hepatitis and fever outbreak to ascertain knowledge and skills in outbreak detection and response. Following a pilot test and with inputs from public health experts, we finalized the instrument in the local language. The simulation exercise was self-administered among all health inspectors (HI) (n = 39) from a district in South India responsible for outbreak investigation. We collected sociodemographic factors, training, education level, awareness about the surveillance program, outbreak triggers, and prior experience with an outbreak. We assigned a score of 0.25 for each correct response (range 0 to 10.75). We categorized a score of <75% as poor performance. The academic ethics committee of ICMR-National Institute of Epidemiology approved the protocol. Results: All the HIs were male except one. Median age is 51 years (Range: 37.5–54). The median years of service is 12 (range 5.3 to 23). Twenty-two received training, and fifteen had prior exposure to an outbreak in the previous year. The overall performance of HIs was poor, with the highest mark being below 40%. The median score in the section of history taking was 0.25 [interquartile range (IQR) 0–0.5], 31% (n = 12) scored zero. The median score in the section of data entry, analysis, and outbreak detection was 0.25 (0–0.25), 28% (n = 11) scored zero. The median score in the section of outbreak response was 0.75 (IQR 0.75–1.13), 5% (n = 2) scored zero. Conclusion: The HIs performed poorly in outbreak preparedness and response. We recommend improving their performance through field-epidemiology training and regular field or facility-based evaluations.

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