Contact tracing is essential to reduce the spread of COVID-19 but contact tracers need more than technical skills to be successful.
When containing a large outbreak that has community transmission, an essential ingredient is community trust.
Contact tracers now have the opportunity to build their skills in cultural safety, the social determinants of health, and mental health and wellbeing, thanks to three new online modules developed by an international team led by Senior Research Fellow Dr Tambri Housen at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University.
“A simple request to quarantine is not so simple for many. Contact tracing is about engaging with people, communicating risk and strategies for keeping themselves and their loved ones safe.”
The social determinants of health module focuses on the importance of culture, context and working with communities when designing and implementing contract tracing.
“With all infectious disease outbreaks, it is key that we understand the population when responding. When contact tracing, we need to treat people with dignity at all times, and understand that we will be making contact with a variety of people with diverse living situations,” said Dr Housen.
The mental health and wellbeing module develops skills in providing adequate, culturally appropriate support to both individuals being asked to quarantine, and the contact tracing team themselves.
“It can be very confusing for a person when they are told of their need to self-isolate or self-quarantine and it is important they are supported. It is also essential that emergency response teams are supported.”
The three new build on an initial introduction to contact tracing program developed by ANU and ACT Health earlier this year, which was the first open-access training available on contact tracing for COVID-19.
The modules were developed by an international collaboration between the Research School of Population Health, ACT Health, the Canadian Field Epidemiology Program (CFEP) and WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN). The project was funded by the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET).