Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness

Original Research

Comprehensive On-site Medical and Public Health Training for Local Medical Practitioners in a Refugee Setting

Ramin Asgary c1 and Karen Jacobson


Objectives In refugee settings, local medical personnel manage a broad range of health problems but commonly lack proper skills and training, which contributes to inefficient use of resources. To fill that gap, we designed, implemented, and evaluated a curriculum for a comprehensive on-site training for medical providers.

Methods The comprehensive teaching curriculum provided ongoing on-site training for medical providers (4 physicians, 7 medical officers, 15 nurses and nurse aids, and 30 community health workers) in a sub-Saharan refugee camp. The curriculum included didactic sessions, inpatient and outpatient practice-based teaching, and case-based discussions, which included clinical topics, refugee public health, and organizational skills. The usefulness and efficacy of the training were evaluated through pretraining and posttraining tests, anonymous self-assessment surveys, focus group discussions, and direct clinical observation.

Results Physicians had a 50% (95% CI 17%-82%; range, 25%-75%) improvement in knowledge and skills. They rated the quality and usefulness of lectures 4.75 and practice-based teaching 5.0 on a 5-point scale (1=poor to 5=excellent). Evaluation of medical officers’ knowledge revealed improvements in (1) overall test scores (52% [SD 8%] to 80% [SD 5%]; P < .0001); (2) pediatric infectious diseases (44% [SD 9%] to 79% [SD 7%]; P < .001); and (3) noninfectious diseases (57% [SD 16%] to 81% [SD 10%] P < .01). Main barriers to effective learning were lack of training prioritization, time constraints, and limited ancillary support.

Conclusions A long-term, ongoing training curriculum for medical providers initiated by aid agencies but integrated into horizontal peer-to-peer education is feasible and effective in refugee settings. Such programs need prioritizing, practice and system-based personnel training, and a comprehensive curriculum to improve clinical decision making.(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2013;7:82-88)

(Received December 28 2011)

(Accepted September 10 2012)

Key Words

  • Refugee camp;
  • on-site training;
  • health personnel;
  • training curriculum


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to Ramin Asgary, MD, MPH, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Medicine, 111 E210th St, New York, NY 10467 (e-mail: ramin.asgary@caa.columbia.edu).