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Programme to train doctors to identify epidemics

By Khetam Malkawi - Jan 27,2013 - Last updated at Jan 27,2013

AMMAN — The Ministry of Health has developed a new, two-year programmme to train unspecialised physicians as epidemiologists, with a particular focus on investigating outbreaks of infectious disease.

Bassam Hijjawi, director of the ministry’s primary healthcare department, said 12 general practitioners from Jordan and several other Arab countries had registered in the Field Epidemiology Training Programme, which will start next month.

Epidemiology, one of the cornerstones of public health research, is the science of how diseases begin, how they spread and what effects they have in a specific population.

Hijjawi noted that Jordanian doctors used to receive short-term training courses in epidemiology from the ministry and other medical institutions, but this training was not sufficient to ensure that they were able to identify epidemics and appropriate responses to them — the main rationale behind the new programme.

According to Hijjawi, having more trained epidemiologists in the Kingdom’s medical community will ensure a prompt response to any future epidemics.

He said the ministry planned to station at least one epidemiologist full-time in each governorate. Currently, a team of epidemiologists based in Amman travels to governorates whenever there is an outbreak of infectious disease.

In a previous statement, Hijjawi said that some epidemic diseases, such as malaria, diphtheria and cholera, had been completely eradicated in the Kingdom through vaccines, adding that the annual cost of the national vaccination programme stands at JD13 million.

He noted that efforts are ongoing to introduce new vaccinations to the programme, like immunisation against rotavirus and pneumococcal diseases.
Hepatitis A remains a concern, he said, but the prevalence of hepatitis C among Jordanians is only 1 per cent.

He pointed out that no hepatitis B cases have been registered in the Kingdom since the vaccination was introduced in the country in the mid-1990s.

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