Canberra is leading the way in the COVID-19 health sphere, as a contact tracing training program developed by the Australian National University (ANU) and ACT Health is being used by international health departments.
The e-learning response program was developed in March and has upskilled over 100 students in the ACT to help contact tracing of COVID-19 cases in the Territory.
ANU senior research fellow and curriculum convenor at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Tambri Housen, said the collaboration was an effective training model in response to the pandemic.
“As this happened, we contacted ACT Health and asked if they wanted us to train some students in contact tracing and they said yes,” she said.
“We trained 15 initially and once social distancing came in and then the cases numbers began to rise, they ended up calling us up and asked us to train 100 students.”
The program was offered to students in a Master of Public Health, as well as medical and nursing students at ANU and the University of Canberra.
Following their training, students were then placed within ACT Health and supervised by a senior epidemiologist to follow up those who had come into contact with the virus.
ANU medical student, Ben Kinchington, said the program had offered him invaluable experience within his field.
“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to be able to help the ACT community and provide support to the people you’re informing, often for the first time, that they are a close contact of a confirmed case,” he said.
“The training program included some curly scenarios so we could be as well prepared as possible. It has been reassuring to work alongside and witness the dedication, professionalism and expertise of the public health team in the ACT that is keeping our community safe.”
The training program, which includes scenario-based exercises, data collection templates for case investigations and in-depth information on the outcomes of contact tracing, was then shared to other epidemiology centres globally.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the collaboration was an impressive example of the work being done by both ACT Health and the Territory’s universities.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Ms Housen reminded local residents that although the outlook for the ACT had been positive, the pandemic was not yet over.
“Complying with self-quarantine rules is so important and that’s the only way we are going to stay on top of this pandemic,” she said.
“So far we have had such a positive response from the public which is why we have been able to manage this, and we need to keep doing that.”