During 2020, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services rapidly increased their surge public health workforce to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. To support this emergency response workforce, the Public Health Association of Australia and the Australasian Epidemiological Association implemented an emergency response mentorship program.
The DHHS mentor program commenced on 16 September and ran for a three month period following the height of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, officially finishing in December 2020. This mentorship program was open to all COVID-19 staff at DHHS. The target participants ranged from newly arrived staff through to established middle level staff working at DHHS. Mentors were experienced public health professionals with more than five years of public health experience. Program participants were not required to be PHAA/AEA members.
A formal, independent evaluation of this mentor program was led by Ms Amy Elizabeth Parry, a PhD student National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University. Ms Parry is a graduate of the Australian field epidemiology training programme (MAE,) and is an experienced international public health field epidemiologist with experience in both acute and protracted humanitarian response settings. has worked in Cambodia on supporting the government to implement and integrate their modified field epidemiology training. Her PhD research focusses on strengthening the local and international health security workforce during emergencies in low resource settings.
We thank Ms Parry for producing this comprehensive report, which will resonate with Health Departments around Australia and New Zealand, all of which are facing possible COVID-19 outbreaks or other major public health challenges into the foreseeable future. We hope that the findings from the report enable emergency response workforces to be better supported and more effective.