Title: Outbreak Investigations & Research
Keywords: international/global health
Research (in general)
Multi/inter-sectorial approach
Country: Belgium
Institution: Belgium - Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine
Course coordinator: Marjan Pirard
Date start: 2021-04-19
Date end: 2021-05-07
About duration and dates: 3 weeks
Classification: advanced optional
Mode of delivery: Face to face
Course location: Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine
Nationalestraat 155
B-2000 Antwerpen

tropEd Representative:
Govert van Heusden, gvheusden@itg.be
Website: www.itg.be

Course leader: Prof. Marianne van der Sande (mvandersande@itg.be)
ECTS credit points: 5 ECTS credits
SIT: 84 contact hours + 50 self-study hours = 134 hours SIT
Language: English
At the end of the course, the student should be able to:
• Design and explain a protocol to implement interdisciplinary outbreak investigation
• Identify risks and challenges in outbreak research and options to mitigate them
• Define clear research objectives, based on an analysis of the concrete problems and opportunities related to a specific outbreak
• Identify and describe actors, including communities, local and national (health) authorities, as well as professionals, involved in a specific outbreak
• Apply appropriate (quantitative, qualitative, geographical) methods to describe an outbreak and analyse interventions
Assessment Procedures:
During the 3-week course, each participant will work on a group assignment related to a specific outbreak. Each group will develop an outline of a research protocol on a specific intervention for a given outbreak in a specific context. This proposal is expected to incorporate perspectives and needs from relevant stakeholders in an interdisciplinary approach.
On the final day of the course, each group will present and discuss their protocol. The other participants, in the audience, will take the roles of different stakeholders and are expected to give a critical reflection. Staff from the communication department will then question the presenters from the perspective of the press. The moderators will invite all to contribute.

Individual grading will be based for 50% on the group presentation (individual mark on individual contribution) and for 50% on the quality of their critical reflections / peer feedback during presentations of all the proposals.

Students will get teacher (formative) feedback:
- on draft versions during scheduled coaching sessions from the course leader
- on the presentations and discussions from a jury composed by the course leader, two staff members involved in teaching/coaching and a member of the communication department.

An assessment grid will be used by the same jury for marking and feedback.
Assessment criteria include:
- Appropriateness of application of taught tools
- Adequate inclusion of stakeholder perspectives and priorities
- Relevance of the research question
- Appropriateness of the study design
- Sufficient attention for operational challenges
- Clarity of communication for various stakeholders

Re-sit sessions
Participants who did not obtain the pass mark of 50% (10/20) for the overall assessment mark for the module in the first assessment session, get the possibility to individually present and discuss a revised version of the assignment(s) in a re-sit session.
A set of interdisciplinary sessions will assist the students to gain new insights in outbreak investigation and research, which can support outbreak control.

In the first part of the course, emphasis will be on introducing the different theoretical and operational concepts, using exercises to practice hand-on skills, such as
-10 steps of outbreak investigation
-surveillance and early warning
-geographical information systems
-involving stakeholders, communities, health systems
-evaluation methods, data management

In the second part, we will go more in depth by:
- unravelling research opportunities and discussing the challenges, the specificities and impact of investigations and research during outbreaks through disease-specific examples.
- discussing infectious disease outbreaks of rare pathogens (e.g. Ebola), often neglected outbreaks (e.g. cholera), nosocomial outbreaks (e.g. antimicrobial resistance -related), vector-borne disease outbreaks (e.g. chikungunya), as well as discuss Covid-19 related investigations and research.
In all examples we will focus on interdisciplinarity in outbreak investigation, control and research.
Exchange of experience is essential in the learning process.
Teaching and learning methods consist of interactive lectures (42 hrs), group work on case studies (10 hrs), exercises to apply tools (10 hrs), lab demo’s (4 hrs), coached group work for the assignment (10 hrs) and presentations for the assignments (4 hrs). One session (2h) will be dedicated to introduce the course & the assignment and one session (2h) for the course evaluation and conclusions.

In addition to the scheduled contact hours it is estimated that 50 hrs of personal work (self-study) are required for preparatory and additional reading and for the group assignment.
Academic degree
Applicants must hold a university degree equivalent to 240 ECTS (referred to as a Master’s degree in the European Union) in health sciences (medicine, pharmacy, nursing, animal health), biomedical sciences or other health-related domains, such as medical sociology, medical anthropology, health economics or environmental health.
Applicants for the short course need to demonstrate some experience with or expertise in the domain of outbreak investigations.
Language proficiency
Required level for English: TOEFL 580 (paper-based), 230 (computer-based) or 88 (internet-based), IELTS 6.5 or equivalent. (ITM TOEFL Code 7727).
Note: native English speakers are exempt from these language requirements. Applicants whose first language is not English are equally exempt if they have obtained 60 credits from a higher education programme taught in English. Non-native English speakers are also exempt from the English language requirement if they have a higher education diploma from a Flemish Community higher education institution.
Additional admission requirement:
Applicants should have successfully completed the core modules of an MPH or a tropEd core course or prove that they have attained basic methodological competencies through other courses or professional experience.
Attendance: max.25 students
Selection criteria
• Relevance of professional experience (preferably at least 6 months of relevant professional experience)
• Motivation: interest in outbreak research and expected contributions to future outbreak research
• References
• Relevant additional training. A Master degree in Public Health, in Epidemiology or equivalent is an asset.
730 Euros for EEA students
1900 Euros for non-EEA students
ITM can offer a number of fellowships to applicants from developing countries. Academic acceptance in the course is conditional to, but no guarantee for such scholarships. More information can be obtained on the ITM website (fees and scholarships)
tropEd accreditation:
Accredited at Online tropEd GA (“Hamburg”), 11 - 12 June 2020. This Accreditation is valid until June 2025.
Key didactic references:

Tansey CM et al. Earthquakes to Floods: a scoping review of health-related disaster research in low and middle-income countries. PLoS Curr Dis 2018;10:pii
Zumla A et al. Taking forward a 'One Health' approach for turning the tide against the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus and other zoonotic pathogens with epidemic potential. Int J Infect Dis 2016;47:5-9
Email Address: gvheusden@itg.be
Date Of Record Creation: 2020-08-20 03:26:43 (W3C-DTF)
Date Of Record Release: 2020-08-20 08:31:58 (W3C-DTF)
Date Record Checked: 2020-08-20 (W3C-DTF)
Date Last Modified: 2020-08-20 08:35:43 (W3C-DTF)

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