Field Epidemiology

MECIDS conducts regional epidemiology training courses on an annual or biennial basis. The courses aim to train doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, and laboratory workers based at universities and Ministries of Health in Jordan, Palestine and Israel. They are designed to teach key principles of field epidemiology, and the courses include workshops on addressing the challenges of working across conflict lines.

While Jordan, Palestine and Israel have their own domestic epidemiology training programs, MECIDS’ training courses were the first of their kind to bring together public health workers with different Middle East nationalities.

Over the years, the regional epidemiology training courses have enhanced the capacity of public health sectors on domestic and regional levels. They have also built a strong network of health professionals throughout the region.

The courses have been conducted since 2004 in collaboration with the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training (EPIET).

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Infectious Diseases

Preventing the spread of infectious disease across Jordan, Palestine and Israel is one of MECIDS’ primary endeavors. In particular, MECIDS battles three prevalent diseases in the region: leishmaniasis, food-borne illness, and avian influenza.


Leishmaniasis is an infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites, and transmitted by the bite of infected sandflies. It ravages young children in particular and often leaves ugly, disfiguring scars on the body. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report recognized leishmaniasis as one of the most neglected tropical diseases in the world, and has urged member states to undertake action to control it. Already the disease has spread across the Jordan River valley, affecting Jordan, the West Bank and Israel and it has recently invaded areas in northern Israel, the Negev desert, and in the furthest reaches of the West Bank. This past decade alone has seen a twenty-fold increase in cases, and new instances have been recorded as far afield as the outskirts of Jerusalem, Jenin and Amman. In the face of this surge, MECIDS has stepped in to aid and coordinate leishmaniasis efforts between Jordan, Palestine and Israel. MECIDS works to foster joint engagement of cross-border and cross-sector governmental and academic research institutions to understand, prevent, detect, manage and control leishmaniasis incidences in the region. Specifically, MECIDS seeks to reduce Leishmaniasis incidences; control the cross-border spread of the disease; and foster collaboration between the public health sectors of Jordan, Palestine and Israel.

Food-borne Epidemics

MECIDS is in the process of expanding and strengthening a national laboratory-based surveillance network for food-borne diseases. The network covers Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Because of the close proximity of the three populations, and because of increasing levels of food exchange, improving the disease surveillance is critical for preventing the transmission of food-borne diseases across the region. MECIDS’ food-borne disease surveillance project is a three-year effort designed to upgrade the region’s ability to detect and analyze food-borne diseases, and to create a new mechanism for sharing information across borders. Because most food-borne infections cause diarrheal illness, the MECIDS food-borne disease surveillance focuses on such cases. Participants include the Jordanian Ministry of Health in partnership with the Royal Scientific Society; the Palestinian Ministry of Health in partnership with Al Quds University and tIsraeli Ministry of Health in partnership with Tel Aviv University.

Avian Influenza

As avian influenza (“bird flu”) reached the Mediterranean in 2006 – along with fears that the disease could infect humans – the region’s ability to confront a human influenza pandemic became a global priority. After successfully building an infrastructure to facilitate regional cooperation in managing disease outbreaks, MECIDS took on avian influenza. Recognizing the value in building this infrastructure, the Ministries of Health for Jordan, Palestine and Israel, convened a conference in December 2006 on influenza pandemic preparedness. During the conference, officials worked on coordinating their national disease surveillance and control measures, and agreed on ways to assist each other in the event of an influenza outbreak. The conference was held in Istanbul. From 2006 through 2008, during the crucial period when the avian influenza virus was still new to the region, MECIDS remained active in confronting the disease. Below are the reports for the meetings that MECIDS has conducted regarding avian flu.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has been a steadfast partner of MECIDS since its inception in 2001. The WHO generously provides seasoned public health advisors for many of MECIDS projects, and they routinely participate in many of MECIDS’ training events.

Most recently in June 2012, when MECIDS conducted a public health workshop on land border crossings in Jerusalem, a cadre of senior-level WHO representatives attended the seminar. They provided invaluable expertise throughout the two days of meetings, as officials from the three Ministries of Health fashioned a draft of a trilateral health agreement for regional land crossings.

MECIDS plans to hold additional land border crossing workshops with WHO advisors present to provide their veteran counsel and recommendations.

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Bio-safety & Bio-security

MECIDS’ regional work in bio-safety and bio-security focuses on training. Laboratory technicians are instructed how to handle and dispose of bio-hazardous materials; proper conduct in a laboratory setting is taught; and the essential protocols for working inside a sensitive biological setting are detailed.

On the whole, the objective is to ensure that public health service laboratory staff in the region follow best practices, and that laboratory standards are harmonized between the three participating Ministries of Health.

In the future, MECIDS plans to develop a common accreditation system for those graduating from the training process, which will be recognized in all countries and authorities participating in MECIDS.

In November 2011, with funding from the International Council for Life Sciences, MECIDS began training lab technicians. The international trilateral training course took place in Jerusalem, and welcomed 30 participant technicians. Due to the success of this initial Jerusalem course, each MECIDS member country has expressed a strong desire to continue with the trainings.

In the future, trainings will be expanded to include additional tri-lateral sessions, as well as separate courses tailored for each country. Furthermore, MECIDS intends to conduct a “training of trainers” so that the benefits of the program can expand exponentially throughout the region.

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