Veterinary paraprofessionals (VPPs) contributions are vital to efficient veterinary service delivery. Yet, the quality of their training and their level of recognition varies from one country to another because the requirements for the profession are not always clearly defined. The 87th OIE General Session was the occasion to raise awareness amongst national Delegates on the important role of VPPs for animal disease surveillance, prevention and control, and to provide them with a set of guidelines designed to assist Veterinary Authorities in better defining the roles of VPPs and adapt available training options to specific local needs.
In many countries, particularly those without a sufficient number of veterinarians, VPPs are called upon to provide a wide range of activities and services in the areas of animal health, veterinary public health and laboratory diagnosis.
They can notably be involved in supporting national Veterinary Services when the implementation of large-scale control strategies for major diseases is on their agenda. For instance, national control programmes are currently underway in many countries to tackle peste des petits ruminants and VPPs are needed to carry out activities such as vaccinations, epidemiological and serological surveillance, disease investigation and sampling as part of this government effort.
On a broader scale, these VPPs may also be expected to take part in a wide range of activities, under the direction and responsibility of veterinarians, from disease prevention and control activities to meat inspections or laboratory diagnostic testing, depending on qualifications and training, as well as other country’s needs.
Yet, oftentimes, countries lack qualified VPPs, because their competencies differ from those which are needed in their particular context or because appropriate training options are not available locally.
Meanwhile, VPPs are facing challenges, due to the lack of jobs or further training opportunities, and the lack of recognition of their training from the Veterinary Authorities. Indeed, the education of VPPs varies greatly around the world both in duration and quality.
A survey recently conducted in OIE Member Countries of the African region* highlighted training opportunities as the most important requirement to enhance the contribution of VPPs to better animal health and welfare, as reported by 98% of responding countries.
This can be explained by the fact that recognised categories of VPPs may not be well defined and the standards of performance for existing categories of VPPs may also not be clear.
Matching training content with competencies needed at local level
To support countries in filling this gap, the OIE has recently published Curricula Guidelines for VPPs. Used together with the existing Competency Guidelines for VPPs, they can be applied in many ways, to help Veterinary Services develop job descriptions as well as provide guidance to training institutions to develop curricula that provide the competencies required. They can also be used by VPPs themselves for self-assessments aimed at continuing education and career advancement.
The overarching goal of this effort is to provide Member Countries with useful tools to help them better define the roles of VPPs, the competencies that they need to acquire, the training they need to obtain, and how to apply those skills in support of the work of Veterinary Services and in line with OIE standards.
Considering that the resources available for training VPPs can vary considerably between countries, and there is no single approach that will suit all of their needs, the Curricula Guidelines are designed to be flexible based on the needs of recognised training institutions and authorities responsible for regulating VPPs.
Countries are encouraged to implement them to ensure that the important roles that VPPs can play to enhance animal health are better defined, tailored and are formally acknowledged.
* Survey conducted in the framework of the 23rd Conference of the OIE Regional Commission for Africa to relate the importance of VPPs in terms of their roles and responsibilities and the way they are regulated within African countries. (45 responding countries – 2019).
“What will be the main benefits that countries will receive when they implement
the OIE Competency Guidelines and Curricula Guidelines for Veterinary Paraprofessionals?”
Dr David Sherman, Chargé de mission at the OIE Regional Activities Department