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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed a gap in disaster preparedness of health workers globally. Disaster medicine education is a key element to fill this gap.
This study evaluated the involvement of the European Master in Disaster Medicine (EMDM) Alumni in the current COVID-19 pandemic response and their self-perceived value of the EMDM educational program in accomplishing their tasks during the disaster.
An online survey targeting the EMDM Alumni was conducted from January through March 2021. Quantitative data were described using percentages or means, as appropriate, while qualitative data were categorized using deductive thematic analysis.
In total, 259 Alumni completed the survey. Most of the Alumni (88.03%; standard error of the proportion [SEp] = 0.02) participated directly in the COVID-19 pandemic response – nationally or internationally – with different roles and responsibilities at different levels and sectors. Around 25% of the Alumni reported an increase in their tasks and responsibilities due to COVID-19 response, but few worked beyond their main specialization (5.26%) or expertise (2.19%). Moreover, Alumni shifted their role from clinical practice to managerial, public health, education and training, and policymaking roles during COVID-19 (P <.001). Participants believed that the EMDM study program and the competencies acquired during the course were relevant and useful to perform their tasks during the COVID-19 pandemic response (mean = 5.26; 5.17 standard error of the mean [SEM] = 0.108, 0.107), respectively. Around 36% (SEp = 0.03) of the participants deemed that some contents were not sufficient for COVID-19 response.
Most of the EMDM Alumni were involved in the COVID-19 pandemic response, playing diverse roles with an increased level of responsibility compared to those played before the pandemic. Moreover, the Alumni perceived the EMDM curriculum as relevant for accomplishing their tasks. However, they also reported gaps within the curriculum, especially topics related to outbreak and pandemic response. The findings of the study stress the value of investing in disaster medicine education world-wide and of pushing to update and standardize post-graduate disaster medicine curricula.
Education and training programs are critical to achieve personnel capacity building and professionalization in the rapidly growing humanitarian health sector. Thus, this study aimed to describe the status of humanitarian health education and training programs world-wide.
A web-based analysis was conducted to identify the available humanitarian health programs. The following characteristics of the training programs were described: geographical location, target audience, prerequisite, qualification, curriculum, content, length, modality of delivery, teaching and assessment methods, and tuition fee.
The search identified a total number of 142 training programs, most of them available in few countries of the global North. Only seven percent of the identified programs qualified for a master’s degree in humanitarian health. Public health was the most identified content (47.2%). Approximately one-half of the training programs (50.7%) were delivered face-to-face. Theoretical knowledge was the most common method used for teaching and assessment. The duration of the training and tuition fees were different for different programs and qualifications, while target audience, prerequisite, and curriculum design were often vaguely described or missing.
The study shows a global inequality in access to humanitarian health training programs due to financial and geographical constraints. The study also reveals gaps in program contents, as well as teaching and assessment methods, all issues that could be addressed by developing cost-effective e-learning and online simulation programs. Lastly, the data from this study provide a learning tool that can be used by humanitarian health educators and training centers to further define and standardize the requirements and competencies of humanitarian health professionals.
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