Washington, DC, 4 February 2014 (PAHO/WHO).- With the intention of improving disease surveillance and control in the English-speaking Caribbean, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) launched a virtual course on Basic Epidemiological Concepts for front-line health workers.

The course, which was originally developed by Canada to train local health personnel, was adapted jointly between both organizations to better reflect the context and needs of the Caribbean and will be offered free of charge through the PAHO/WHO Virtual Campus for Public Health. Professionals who complete the two-month training will have a better understanding of the fundamentals of epidemiology for use in their daily work.

"We are not going to achieve universal health coverage without adequately trained, well-motivated and well-distributed health care workers. Within this context, this course and health workers are very important because they contribute to increasing access to health care and its quality", indicated Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, PAHO/WHO Director.

Health professionals from Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Guyana and Saint Kitts and Nevis will participate in this virtual training beginning 10 February, the main content of which includes the definition, origins and uses of epidemiology;  cause and effect in epidemiology; the natural history of disease; public health surveillance; and biomedical ethics.

In the last seven years, the collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada has contributed to the training of approximately 200 health workers from the Caribbean, strengthening and broadening their competencies in epidemiology, disease surveillance and control, and health analysis. "Virtual trainings such as this one are of much importance, particularly in the Caribbean, where face-to-face training opportunities are scarce and, often, expensive", added Dr. Etienne, originally from Dominica.

Other participants in the launch included the Director of the Department of Health Systems and Services of PAHO/WHO, James Fitzgerald; the Chief of the Human Resources for Health, Bioethics and Research Unit, Charles Godue; the Chief of the Information and Health Analysis Unit, Patricia Ruiz; the Head of the Health Security Infrastructure Branch at PHAC, Theresa Tam; and the County Medical Officer of Health, County Victoria, Trinidad and Tobago, Akenath Misir, among others.