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Assessing the Training Needs of Epidemiologists

Posted By Jessica Arrazola, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The recent publication “Examining state health agency Epidemiologists and their training needs” describes the applied epidemiology workforce as highly educated, with gaps in relevant skills requiring development.1 These gaps are not in traditional epidemiology “shoe leather,” but in the cross cutting skills of collaboration, change management, and communication. Similar to other assessments of the public health workforce, workers self-report a need for more training in these non-technical skills. As we enter into the era of “Public Health 3.0”—a major upgrade in public health practice to emphasize cross-sectoral policy to address social determinates of health—it will be necessary for epidemiologists to work beyond their silos to successfully implement surveillance and informatics initiatives.

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) recognizes this need for training in cross cutting skills and is changing the accreditation criteria of schools and programs of public health.2 These changes aim to shift the delivery of the Master of Public Health (MPH) curriculum from the traditional five areas of public health to foundational knowledge and competencies as well as applied learning experiences beyond the traditional practicum. The 22 MPH competencies are arranged across eight domains: evidence-based approaches to public health, public health and health care systems, planning and management to promote health, policy in public health, leadership, communication, interprofessional practice, and systems thinking.

The change in accreditation criteria will eventually have a downstream effect in preparing the public health workforce, but training in cross cutting skills for the current workforce is needed now. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) aims to provide epidemiologists a forum for discussion, resources, and training for cross cutting skills. One example is the recently developed toolkit of resources to promote scientific writing among applied epidemiologists. Since June 2016, CSTE has identified new leadership for the Epi Methods Subcommittee, reinvigorated the Workforce Subcommittee and added a co-chair, and has initiated an Early Career Professionals Workgroup. While other subcommittees and workgroups are topical in nature, the Epi Methods and Workforce Subcommittees’ activities strive to promote a trained and qualified workforce on cross cutting skills.

CSTE will continue to support activities to foster a prepared workforce. The Epi Methods Subcommittee Chairs, Diana Cervantes of the Texas State Department of Health and Talia Brown of Boulder County Public Health, have led the group to develop a strategic plan for 2016-2017 with two major priority areas: 1) Enhancing awareness and promoting best practices in applied epidemiology methods and 2) Working to build and maintain capacity for the application of epidemiologic methods. The Workforce Subcommittee will also develop a strategic plan to be presented at the 2017 CSTE Annual Conference.

CSTE remains committed to equipping epidemiologists with the diverse skills they need—technical and otherwise—to succeed in an evolving public health landscape. You can help us by joining the Workforce and/or Epi Methods Subcommittees to support our workforce development initiatives.

Jessica Arrazola is CSTE’s Acting Director of Workforce Development. To receive more information about the Early Career Professionals Workgroup or other CSTE workforce development projects, contact Jessica at Jarrazola@cste.org.

1 Chapple-McGruder, T., Leider, J., Beck, A., Castrucci, B., Harper, E., Sellers, K., Arrazola, J., and Engel, J. (2016). Examining state health agency epidemiologists and their training needs, Annals of Epidemiology.
2 Hadler, J. (2014). 2013 Epidemiology Capacity Assessment. Accessed via http://www.cste2.org/2013eca/CSTEEpidemiologyCapacityAssessment2014-final2.pdf
3 Council on Education for Public Health. (2016). 2016 revised criteria. Accessed via http://ceph.org/criteria-revision/

Tags:  Cross Cutting  epidemiology  Fellowship  membership  staff spotlight  Workforce Development 

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CSTE Welcomes New Staff

Posted By Janet Hui, Nidal Kram, & Amy Patel, Friday, October 17, 2014
Today CSTE welcomes three new associate research analysts.

Hello, my name is Janet Hui, and I am the new research analyst for Surveillance and Informatics. Originally from New York, I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Geography from Dartmouth College in 2012 and my MPH in Epidemiology from Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in May 2014. As an undergraduate, I had randomly enrolled in an epidemiology course and unexpectedly fell in love with the subject. I am passionate about data and technology and have a Certificate in Public Health Informatics as well as experience implementing geographic information systems for disease mapping. I am grateful and excited for the opportunity to further apply my skills in this field.

At CSTE, my primary focus will be the Reportable Conditions Knowledge Management System (RCKMS) project. Accurate reporting of disease is the cornerstone of surveillance, making it critical for providers and laboratories to have convenient access to up-to-date reporting criteria. RCKMS is envisioned to be a tool for providers, labs, and jurisdictions to better communicate and access reporting rules. This upcoming year, I will be helping to launch the feasibility pilot for the potential adoption of the RCKMS by state and local health departments. CSTE members are going to be heavily involved in all levels of the pilot, and I will be supporting them through workgroup calls and meetings. Everyone has been extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the project, and I’m thrilled to be working with them!

Hi there! My name is Nidal A-Z Kram and I am the associate research analyst supporting the Chronic Disease, Maternal and Child Health, and Oral Health (CD/MCH/OH) Steering Committee. I also work with the Substance Abuse Subcommittees within the Cross Cutting I Steering Committee. I completed my undergraduate studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin where I majored in Biology with minors in Anthropology and Ethnic Studies. I joined CSTE after receiving my Master’s in Public Health from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, focusing on Global Health and Community Health and Development.

I am eager to work with my subcommittees in developing new project ideas as well as completing ongoing projects. Most importantly, I am excited to do relevant and meaningful work that supports our members in local and state health departments. One key activity is the distribution of the CD/MCH/OH Epidemiology Capacity Assessment (ECA) report, which shows trends and indicates areas for improvement. The Chronic Disease Epidemiology Evaluation webinar series will be an interactive course designed to strengthen capacity. The Substance Abuse Subcommittees are also engaged in several interesting projects, including a computer program that searches the text on death certificates for specific drugs included in the cause-of-death statement and records those drugs as new fields. For additional information on any of these projects and to learn how to get involved in these subcommittees, please contact me!

Hi, I’m Amy Patel. A ‘Tar Heel Born and Bred,’ I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with my Bachelor of Science in Biology and Anthropology in 2011 and then again with my Master of Public Health in Health Behavior with a Certificate in Global Health in 2014. I thought I would save the world through medicine when I started college but I quickly learned that community-based public health was where it was at. To gain more hands-on experience before graduate school, I pursued a 13-month fellowship in rural Alabama with the nonprofit Project Horseshoe Farm. While our programs focused on people with mental and physical disabilities, the elderly, and children, this doesn’t even begin to encapsulate the breadth and richness of our work. My passion lies in taking a comprehensive, systemic approach to health with a particular focus on social, cultural, and environmental factors.

Because of this “big picture” interest in public health, I was drawn to CSTE’s interdisciplinary approach to applied public health. My primary program area at CSTE is Occupational Health, but I am also working on projects related to injury, tribal epidemiology, local epidemiology, and epidemiology methods. I’m excited to be working with CSTE members to facilitate public health work across local and national levels. I have already seen regional differences in what the pressing concerns in occupational health and safety may be and I’m drawn to learning more about how states and organizations partner with one another to share best practices and lessons learned. I’m also excited by the variety of my work. From assisting in the collection of national indicator data to developing resources to build capacity for tribal health promotion, I look forward to the engaging opportunities my projects will bring.

Tags:  staff spotlight 

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Promoting the HPV vaccine through partnerships

Posted By Nicole Bryan, Thursday, September 18, 2014

Over the past year, CSTE has worked with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) on a project to highlight the importance of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as a public health priority. This project has been a great way for CSTE to extend its relationships to other partners and organizations and to find different ways to impact public health. NFID and CSTE convened subject matter experts to talk about the long-term health impact of HPV and the role of immunization.

An environmental scan of existing resources was conducted in early 2014. This scan sought to enhance access to materials that would help healthcare providers improve vaccination rates. A summary of the environmental scan found many relevant and useful materials for healthcare providers. These materials range from resources for parents and teens to information for medical professionals. The summary emphasizes that key elements be included in communications materials to ensure the information provided is comprehensive and accurate. Key elements include information about the disease; the vaccine and its importance; the vaccine’s target age range, safety, and efficacy; and the benefit to men, among others. The NFID’s new HPV Resource Center includes many tools and resources for healthcare providers and public health professionals.

CSTE has acted as an advisory council to the project and conducted interviews with the states that have the highest and lowest HPV vaccination rates. CSTE members identified and conducted calls with State Epidemiologists and immunization program staff to discuss successes and barriers with regard to Vaccines for Children (VFC) and public clinics, HPV vaccination compared with other adolescent vaccination, and communication efforts toward healthcare practitioners and the public. Common themes were found among all states after having these conversations. Key messaging content focused primarily on cancer prevention, and funding playing a large role, as either a barrier or a success. All jurisdictions interviewed also stated that they would appreciate more helpful, easy-to-share resources in new formats for healthcare providers. There were also some key differences between jurisdictions with higher HPV vaccination rates and those with lower rates. Jurisdictions with higher or lower rates had different access to the vaccine, different cultures (particularly regarding perceptions of the HPV vaccine) and varying relationships with partners, such as pediatric hospitals and school nurses.
A virtual roundtable with several stakeholder organizations was conducted to discuss the importance of HPV vaccination and to develop a call to action document. The call to action urges healthcare providers to prioritize and actively promote HPV vaccination with parents and adolescents. The document lays out why HPV is an important issue, how vaccination addresses the burden of HPV, and how healthcare providers can help reduce the burden of HPV-related cancers in the U.S.
This work continues in the form of CSTE’s Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPD) Subcommittee. The subcommittee combines the work of the Adult and Child Immunization Subcommittees and will continue the work begun with CSTE’s partnership with NFID. The first VPD Subcommittee call will be September 23 at 2:00 pm ET via WebEx (login information below). It will include a presentation on the challenges and new directions for the pertussis case definition from Anna Acosta and Jeff Davis, an update on this Promotion of HPV Vaccination through Partnerships project, and an open forum to discuss future subcommittee projects.
Join us for the subcommittee call and explore the HPV Resource Center’s materials!
To join the 9/23 VPD Subcommittee call:
  • Access the webinar at: https://cste.webex.com/cste/k2/j.php?MTID=t477a14ed74004ea840415d5223914708
  • Enter your full name and jurisdiction abbreviation in the name field, your email address, and session password (vpd123). You can log in to the webinar beginning at 1:45 PM ET by following the instructions on your screen.
  • To join the audio portion of the call:
    • To receive a call back, provide your phone number when you join the training session, or call the number below and enter the access code.
    • Call-in number: (877) 668-4490
    • Access code: 798 883 447
  • Check the WebEx system requirements before the webinar. Please contact WebEx for webinar troubleshooting.

Nicole Bryan
Associate Research Analyst
Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists

Tags:  infectious disease  staff spotlight  subcommittee  vaccine preventable disease 

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CSTE’s Ebola Virus Disease Activities

Posted By Lauren Reeves, Thursday, August 21, 2014

http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/infographic.pdfCSTE’s role as an advocate for state and local epidemiologists comes into focus during outbreaks and public health emergencies. CSTE is currently working with our members, CDC, and our public health partners to coordinate communication and facilitate information sharing about Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). CSTE and CDC have collaborated from the beginning on regular EVD briefing calls with State Epidemiologists and senior public health officials.

During situations like this EVD response, an enormous amount of information is disseminated very quickly. The CSTE National Office is a source for streamlined, accurate, and directed information for applied epidemiologists. CSTE is helping our members involved with emergency preparedness, infectious disease, and EVD to share best practices and experiences, ask questions, and conduct an open dialogue with their colleagues.

This week, CSTE launched a members-only webpage for up-to-date information, resources, and links about EVD. To access the page, members can log into the CSTE website with their logins and passwords. Links to help members who have forgotten their login email or password are available on the login screen. The EVD page gives CSTE members access to a discussion board forum, where members can contribute and share guidance and protocols, quarantine orders, and other documents from their jurisdictions. The forum also allows members to post questions and comments to facilitate conversation about managing the EVD crisis. CSTE has also compiled an after-hours phone list so jurisdictions and public health partners can easily access emergency contact information for state and local agencies.

CSTE and its partners are continuously working with CDC to discuss state and local jurisdictions’ needs to make sure their concerns are advocated for adequately. CSTE participates in national briefing calls as well as calls that focus on epidemiology to be more specific to the issues and concerns important to epidemiologists.
In addition, three CDC/CSTE Applied Epidemiology Fellows have been deployed to the CDC Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to augment EOC staffing during its activation. The Fellows are assisting with the data management team. Aiden Varan, a fellow placed in infectious disease in a joint assignment with San Diego County and the San Diego quarantine station, arrived at CDC to assist in early August. Hanna Oltean, a fellow working in infectious disease at the Washington State Department of Health, and Cara Bergo, a fellow placed at the Louisiana Department of Health working in maternal and child health, recently joined Aiden at the EOC. Additional fellows may be called to assist as the outbreak response continues.
CSTE and CDC have set up email accounts for specific questions related to each organization’s EVD preparedness and response activities. Contact the CSTE National Office at commandcenter@cste.org with EVD-related questions so that CSTE can focus and direct questions appropriately. State and local senior health officials who need assistance with EVD-related issues can contact CDC’s Incident Management System State Coordination Task Force EOC desk directly at eocsctfeocdesk@cdc.gov.
For more information, visit CSTE’s EVD webpage or CDC’s Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever webpage, which has the most up-to-date information from CDC.
To join and access CSTE’s members-only page, visit CSTE’s membership page.

Tags:  infectious disease  outbreak  staff spotlight 

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We’ve just begun!

Posted By Jennifer Lemmings, Thursday, June 26, 2014
Untitled Document
We at the CSTE National Office spend a lot of time planning for the Annual Conference – determining the topics and the session presentations, finding plenary speakers, getting the right mix of formal sessions and informal discussion and developing networking opportunities. And then, all of a sudden, the conference is here!
We’re at the last day of the conference already, and we’ve had another excellent meeting. Attendees from all over the country gathered to discuss topics ranging from occupational health to surveillance methods to oral health to vectorborne disease. We discussed and approved occupational health and infectious disease position statements that will be posted on our website soon. In addition, Steering Committees and several subcommittees held meetings to discuss their activities in the past year and plans for the upcoming year.
The work doesn’t end with the conference. In fact, CSTE program activities are year round. This summer, CSTE has several collaborative projects and ways for you to stay or get involved.
NNDSS Modernization Initiative (NMI)
CSTE is partnering with APHL to provide technical support for CDC’s NMI on the completion of six message mapping guides (MMGs): generic guide v.2, STD, hepatitis, congenital syphilis, pertussis, and mumps. Through this collaboration, CSTE and APHL will provide technical assistance to invited state and local jurisdictions and assist them in adopting the MMGs and using them to send test case notification messages to the CDC Platform. Stay tuned for webinars, online technical guides, and other training materials to support this implementation. More information on CDC’s NNDSS Modernization Initiative can be found on the CDC website.
New Vectorborne Diseases Subcommittee
This week marked the first meeting of the new vectorborne diseases (VBD) subcommittee. This subcommittee was formed to increase knowledge and improve practices related to VBD epidemiology in local, state, tribal, and territorial settings. The subcommittee will also serve as an overseeing body for reviewing and developing national position statements on VBD-related topics. Activities will include regular conference calls, training webinars, developing white papers, and convening a pre-conference workshop at the 2015 CSTE Annual Conference. If you are interested in joining this new subcommittee, please contact Dhara Patel at the National Office.
Epidemiology Methods Subcommittee
The Epidemiology Methods Subcommittee is another new subcommittee, which aims to increase knowledge and practice of epidemiological methods in state, local, tribal, and territorial settings. The subcommittee meets monthly via conference call to address relevant and emerging topics in epidemiologic methods. The CSTE webinar library is a great place to view past training webinars from this subcommittee and other CSTE program areas—I highly encourage you to check out recent sessions.
Public Health and Primary Care Integration Subcommittee
The Public Health and Primary Care Integration Subcommittee aims to promote partnerships between health providers and public health. This subcommittee addresses community epidemiologic surveillance to support community health needs assessments, the public health interface and use of electronic health records, and sharing lessons learned from successful public health and primary care professional partnerships. Subcommittee activities include regular calls and webinars (available at the webinar library). Contact Jessica Pittman if you are interested in participating in this subcommittee.
CSTE committee conference calls are a great way to find out what’s happening in a subcommittee and participate in discussions. Don’t miss out! Upcoming calls and information can be found on the CSTE calendar.
Not sure what fits best with your interests, or have an idea to share? Call any member of our program staff. We can discuss how you can contribute and be involved. There are plenty of examples of members trying out a committee and finding something they’re passionate about, like Andrea Alvarez or Renee Calanan.
We’re looking forward to working with you!
Jennifer Lemmings
Epidemiology Program Director

Tags:  cross cutting  staff spotlight  surveillance 

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CSTE Executive Board election results: And the winners are…

Posted By Jeff Engel, Friday, June 13, 2014
Untitled Document

CSTE held its first ever electronic vote this year for new Executive Board members. Our 2012-2014 Strategic Plan explicitly called for a restructuring of the governance to help strengthen CSTE as the home organization for all applied public health epidemiologists. This restructuring resulted in last year’s by-laws changes, when CSTE voted to open Executive Board elections to not just the one representative from each state or territory but any CSTE active member. With the help of modern technology and our National Office staff, 43% of active members participated in the election.

The new Executive Board members are:
  • Joseph McLaughlin, Alaska: President-Elect
  • Kristy Bradley, Oklahoma: Infectious Disease Steering Committee chair
  • Marci Layton, New York City: Member-at-Large
  • Sarah Park, Hawaii: Secretary/Treasurer
And the winners are… you! If you are a CSTE member, you are represented by these capable and experienced epidemiologists who will advocate for your interests within our professional association and to Congress. The CSTE Executive Board and leadership represents the full voice and power of applied epidemiology in its work to partner with CDC and other agencies, to advocate for better systems and processes, to collaborate with APHL, ASTHO, NACCHO, and other partners, and more. You are the winner in this election, because the Executive Board puts a tremendous amount of time and effort into improving our field that, in turn, improves the public’s health.
Please join me in congratulating the newest members of the CSTE Executive Board.
Jeff Engel is the Executive Director of CSTE and a former State Epidemiologist. For more information on joining CSTE and supporting the Board and CSTE’s efforts to improve applied epidemiology, click here or contact the National Office.

Tags:  membership  staff spotlight 

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Applied Epi Fellowship Making a Difference!

Posted By Virginia Dick, Thursday, May 15, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Untitled Document

For over 10 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) Applied Epidemiology Fellowship (AEF) has provided recent masters and doctoral level graduates with training, mentorship, and field experience in state and local public health agencies. In 2012, CSTE began a thorough longitudinal evaluation to determine the long-term impacts of the program on the fellows, the mentors who provided guidance and expertise, and the state and local agencies that served as host agencies.

The AEF was created in 2003 to strengthen the workforce in applied epidemiology at state and local health agencies. CSTE, in collaboration with CDC, HRSA, and ASPPH, established the two-year program to give recent public health graduates rigorous preparation and advanced training for successful careers as applied epidemiologists. The Fellowship is designed around core competencies and utilizes a mentorship model to provide field-based learning and professional development opportunities. Host health agencies must demonstrate the capacity to provide an AEF fellow with technical training, research opportunities, and practical experience in the application of epidemiologic methods at the state or local level.

Since 2003, 12 classes of Fellows have participated in the program, and there are over 160 Fellowship alumni. Fellows have been placed in a wide variety of subject areas, including chronic disease, injury, substance abuse, environmental health, maternal and child health, infectious disease, and occupational health.
As seen in the maps below, AEF has had a significant impact across the country through location placements and post-program employment.

Fellow placements, 2003-2012

Fellowship alumni employment, 2003-2011)
The AEF has had an important impact on applied epidemiology during the past 11 years:
  • 88% of all alumni have worked in state, local, or federal public health agencies for at least a year after graduation. Fellows have provided an average of three years of service to governmental public health agencies.
  • Over 160 peer reviewed articles have been published by alumni.
  • 57% of alumni currently work in state, local, or federal public health agencies.
  • The Fellowship has a positive impact on alumni and mentor professional development and networking.
Click here for more information about AEF or the other fellowships supported by CSTE.
More information about the extensive evaluation of the AEF program will be available in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine Public Health Workforce supplement later this year.
Virginia Dick
Program Evaluation Coordinator
Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists

Tags:  evaluation  staff spotlight  workforce development 

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CIFOR Releases the Second Edition of the CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response

Posted By Dhara Patel, Thursday, May 8, 2014
Untitled Document

The Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR) is a multidisciplinary collaboration of national associations comprised of state and local agencies representatives and federal public health agencies whose goal is to improve methods at the local, state, and federal levels to detect, investigate, control, and prevent foodborne disease outbreaks. These CIFOR member organizations represent epidemiology, environmental health, public health laboratories, and regulatory agencies involved in foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak response. CIFOR identifies barriers to rapid detection and response to foodborne disease outbreaks and develops projects that address these barriers. CSTE co-chairs the CIFOR Council. More information about CIFOR can be found at www.cifor.us.

CIFOR released the second edition of the CIFOR Guidelines for Foodborne Disease Outbreak Response on April 25, 2014. The CIFOR Guidelines describe the overall approach to foodborne disease outbreaks, including preparation, detection, investigation, control and follow-up. These guidelines also describe the roles of all key organizations in foodborne disease outbreaks. The CIFOR Guidelines are targeted at local, state and federal agencies that are responsible for preventing and managing foodborne disease.

These guidelines incorporate many significant changes that have occurred in the foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak investigation framework since the first edition of the Guidelines was published in 2009. Examples of additions and changes include information about the Food Safety Modernization Act; new information about model practices in outbreak investigation and response; updated statistics, references and examples; and enhanced alignment between the Guidelines and the Toolkit.
While the publication serves as a comprehensive source of information for individuals and organizations involved in foodborne disease investigation and control, the Guidelines are not intended to replace existing procedure manuals. Instead, they are to be used as a reference document for comparison with existing procedures, for filling in gaps and updating agency-specific procedures, for creating new procedures where they do not exist, and for targeting training of program staff.
View and download the full Second Edition of the CIFOR Guidelines. If you and/or members of your organization/health department would like to request copies, please fill out this brief survey to request copies and provide an appropriate mailing address: https://www.research.net/s/89H5ZS6.
For more information on the CIFOR Guidelines, please contact Dhara Patel, MPH, at CSTE at (770) 458-3811or dpatel@cste.org.
Dhara Patel
Associate Research Analyst
The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists

Tags:  CIFOR  food safety  infectious disease  staff spotlight 

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