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Enhancing Epidemiology Capacity During the 2014-15 West Africa Ebola Outbreak

An Assessment of the Role of Applied Public Health Epidemiologists

Perrotta, Dennis M. PhD; Lemmings, Jennifer MPH; Maillard, Jean-Marie MD, MSc

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: February 07, 2019 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - p
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000982
Practice Full Report: PDF Only

Context: In late 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requested the support of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists to enhance epidemiologic capacity in the West African countries impacted or threatened by an outbreak of Ebola virus disease. In response, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists recruited 36 senior epidemiologists who, collectively, made 45 deployments to West Africa, averaging 42 days each.

Objective: To assess the self-reported experiences and contributions of the deployed epidemiologists, as well as the role of nonprofit public health organizations in large-scale emergency response.

Design: Electronic assessment of the deployed epidemiologists.

Participants: Experienced applied public health epidemiologists who volunteered to participate in the response to the West Africa Ebola virus disease emergency.

Main Outcome Measures: Descriptive data.

Results: The chief, reported functional contributions made during deployments include improving surveillance processes (reported by 73.3% of respondents), building meaningful relationships to facilitate response activities (66.7%), improving data quality (53.3%), and improving understanding of the disease/outbreak (40.0%). Among the professional benefits of deployment to West Africa to assist with Ebola virus disease outbreak response are stimulating enthusiasm for public health work (93.3%, n = 30), broadened perspective of global health (86.7%), and sharpened epidemiological skills (56.7%).

Conclusions: Owing to their ability to access experienced, senior professionals, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and other nonprofit public health associations can play a meaningful role boosting surge capacity in a sustained, large-scale emergency response.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.

Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, Atlanta Georgia. (Ms Lemmings); and Communicable Disease Branch, Division of Public Health, NC Department of Health and Human Services, Raleigh, North Carolina (Dr Maillard). Dr Perrotta is Independent, Consulting Epidemiologist, Smithville, Texas.

Correspondence: Jennifer Lemmings, MPH, Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, 2635 Century Parkway NE, Ste 700, Atlanta, GA 30345 (

The authors acknowledge colleagues who contributed to this effort including Marcelle Layton and Heather Rubino for assistance in assessment instrument design, to the applied public health epidemiologists who deployed to West Africa, and to Nancy Maddox for assistance in writing and editing this manuscript.

The contents of this article are solely the responsibilities of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.

This publication and activities described were supported by the CDC Foundation and cooperative agreement 5U38-OT000143 with the CDC.

The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.