ACT contact tracing training program goes global

Contact tracer talking on phone
22 June 2020

A contact tracing training program developed by ACT Health and the Australian National University (ANU) in response to COVID-19 is now helping international public health departments in the USA, Germany, the European Union and Mediterranean.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the global recognition being received from international partners was a testament to ACT Health, Canberra’s strong knowledge economy and our tertiary education institutes.

“We have made excellent progress in supressing COVID-19 in the ACT. Much of this success can be attributed to the intense planning, preparation and strong epidemiological response provided by ACT Health.

“Canberrans can be very proud of ACT Health and our universities, knowing the work they have done to protect our own community is now helping so many others across the world,” said Minister Stephen-Smith.

Developed in early March, the e-learning program has enabled more than 100 students to be upskilled in contact tracing and act as surge capacity for contact tracing teams in the ACT.

The training included scenario-based exercises with feedback, data collection templates for case investigations and contact management, scripts and FAQs for conducting contact tracing interviews, and in-depth information on how to achieve the goals and outcomes of contact tracing.

The training, which was offered to Master of Public Health, medical and nursing students at ANU and UC, has seen students able to put their training into practice to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

The Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET) has provisionally provided a grant to Australia’s Field Epidemiology Program at ANU to translate these training materials into an e-learning program for wider dissemination. ACT Health is continuing to collaborate with ANU in the development of these materials.

The list of international partners with which the training program materials have been shared with include the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, World Health Organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. These training materials have been accessed more than 200 times so far.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said she was incredibly proud of her team for the work they have done with ANU that is now helping other countries during this unprecedented health crisis.

“This is an example of a partnership which has had a translational impact globally in COVID-19 response efforts. I am incredibly proud of my team,” Dr Coleman said.

Dr Tambri Housen, Senior Research Fellow and Curriculum Convenor at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University says:

“This collaboration between the Research School of Population Health at ANU and ACT Health has demonstrated that training university students as contact tracers has been a very effective model to strengthen surge capacity during a pandemic response.

“We were one of the first in the world to take this approach and other health departments across the globe have taken great interest in this model.

“The students were recruited from ANU and UC and have proven they are able to work under pressure, demonstrating independence and innovation.

“Australia’s field epidemiology training program is now collaborating with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s field epidemiology training program to produce e-learning modules for contact tracing.”