All posts by Alex Kellerstrass

Zika: Lessons Learned after 1 Year’s Response

Over the course of the past program year (October 2016-September 2017), mPowering was able to join the Zika Response Team within USAID’s Maternal and Child Survival Program. As part of mPowering’s involvement, a Zika-specific domain was launched on the ORB platform, the entire ORB site was translated into Spanish, and over 80 quality-assured, mobile-ready, Zika-related health worker training materials were curated on ORB. This collaboration also awarded mPowering the opportunity to establish new networks and build on existing partnerships for increased impact and reach.

Lesson 1: Sharing Helps Everyone

The past year of activities have demonstrated the efficiency of online resource sharing. The Zika Communications Network has supported this point by establishing itself as a central hub for any and all Zika-related tools and materials. By hosting a variety of resources focused toward community engagement, health worker training, policymakers, vector control and sexual transmission in a wide variety of formats such as fact sheets, videos, posters, pamphlets and others; the ZCN provides a platform for content creators and content seekers to meet across organizational lines.

Photo Credit: Life News

ORB shares this focus on content sharing, but differs from the ZCN in that ORB curates health worker training materials that are in formats usable on a mobile device such as a laptop, tablet or smart phone. ORB also requires that all resources be open-source through public domain or Creative Commons licensing in order for users to be able to download resource files for use offline. This is especially important when health workers download a resource then travel to an area without cellular connectivity or Wi-Fi. An example could be if a health worker downloaded Pathfinder’s Cue Cards for Counseling Adolescents on Contraception then used their smart phone or tablet to show them to young people in a rural community outside of cellular network.

ORB and the ZCN continuously conduct cross-site scans to ensure applicable resources are shared on each platform.

Lesson 2: Quality is Possible in Emergencies

One challenge faced during the first year was the ever-changing accuracy of technical evidence and the impact this had on materials development. Content creators feared that sharing tools and resources outside of their organization’s programs could jeopardize the quality of materials if technical content was to change as a result of new findings. This fear proved to be a hurdle in the path toward open resource sharing. mPowering and MCSP’s Zika Response Team found that linking online resources to their original source website as well as timestamping resources and including disclaimers regarding the fast-paced updating of Zika technical findings helped to reinforce quality standards and safety in sharing.

Lesson 3: Keep Sharing!

As mPowering continues to work with MCSP’s Zika Response Team, heading into Year 2, there is still a need for advocacy of open-source sharing. We encourage content creators to share their resources on platforms like ORB and the ZCN. If organizational hurdles prevent sharing on external sites, we encourage creators to share announcements of resources through networks like HipNet, HIFA, the Global Digital Health Network, the Zika Communications Network and others for dissemination on listservs and blogs.

If you are creating materials for Zika response and would like to share on ORB, find our Resource Guidelines here:

MCSP Zika Response Team Utilizes ORB

mPowering’s ORB library has played a central role in USAID’s Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) Zika response team. Since the beginning of the response team’s program year in September 2016, MCSP has supported the launch of a Zika-specific domain on the ORB platform as well as translation of the entire site into Spanish. Learn more about USAID’s Zika response here.

mPowering joined forces with the MCSP Zika response team for preliminary planning in June 2016. Over the last year, we have curated 40 Zika health worker training materials on the Zika domain while developing and improving processes for content review and dissemination with support from USAID and our partners. While progress has been made, mPowering has identified areas in need of improvement in order to more effectively promote content sharing and use of mobile tools for frontline health workers and communities.

In any training initiative, but especially in instances of emergency response, sharing content to decrease duplication of effort and cut costs is critical. Organizations can connect on content sharing platforms like the Zika Communications Network, coordinated by K4Health, to share materials they are creating.

mPowering is urging content creators to take one more step toward collaboration by open-licensing materials and allowing others to download and share resources in their training settings. By using Creative Commons licensing on health worker training content, the time spent on gaining an organization’s permission for use is decreased, if not eliminated. Considering that many organizations do not place licenses on their products, content is better protected with a CC license by providing clear instructions as to how the materials can be used, duplicated, or adapted.

Contact and let us know how mPowering can support your efforts to advocate use of CC licensing within your organization!

Health Workers Featured at IntraHealth’s Switchpoint Conference!


On April 27th and 28th, the Switchpoint Conference took place in Saxapahaw, North Carolina. The conference, a production by our partner IntraHealth, showcased topics dealing with humanitarian innovation, global health and technology. Focusing on building interconnectivity amongst its participants, the conference had interactive networking sessions, microlabs, and presentations on various topics. A special session featured community health workers from around the world and let them voice their stories and experiences.


The following “Testimonies from the Front Lines”, shed light on the experiences of two of the health workers in attendance.


Vânia Soares de Oliveira e Almeida Pinto


Vânia Soares de Oliveira e Almeida Pinto graduated from the Faculdade de Medicina de São José do Rio Preto in 2001 where she specialized in family and community medicine. Vânia taught medical courses at the Universidade de Ribeirão Preto, at the Centro Universitário Barão de Mauá, and at the Hospital das Clínicas de Ribeirão Preto-USP. Currently, she is a professor at the Mucuri Valley, in Teófilo Otoni Minas Gerais, Brazil. She is a tutor for the program More Doctors for Brazil and will finish her master’s degree this year. In collaboration with the Medtronic Foundation and other partners, Vânia is coordinating a project for Healthrise Brazil. This project taps into Vânia’s passion for primary health care and family health, specifically public health policies for under-served communities.



Sanele Madela

Expectra 868 Health Solutions

Dr. Sanele Listen Mandlenkosi Madela was born in the dusty streets of Dundee Sibongile Township and now holds a medical degree from Instituto Superior de Ciencias Medical de Villa Clara (Cuba) and Stellenbosch University (South Africa). Sanele is the MD/founder of Expectra 868 Health Solutions, a non-government organization (NGO) in South Africa focused on community health work. Expectra 868 aims to address the health disparities faced by the community of Umzinyathi District Municipality, where 80% of the population lives in rural areas. Sanele was awarded the 2013 MEC Annual Excellence Award for his contribution to the community-based medical education and advocacy of primary health care.


Learn more about Switchpoint here:




Contributors: Hamida Mohammad, Alex Kellerstrass & IntraHealth Staff


ORB is Now Available in Spanish!

mPowering Frontline Health Workers is excited to announce our entire ORB platform is now available in Spanish. ORB users can now select Spanish under the Language tab in the top menu of the ORB homepage to change the language on the site.

The ORB platform connects trainers and frontline health workers to quality-assured mobile-ready training resources. For content developers, ORB delivers content to a large audience of trainers, implementers, and health workers.

ORB hosts content on reproductive, maternal, and child health, including materials to help health workers respond to Zika virus. Zika content includes tools and resources that health workers can use to learn new information, refresh their skills, and counsel patients who have suspected or confirmed cases of Zika. Some examples include:



If you have Zika-related training materials to share on ORB, please visit  and click on ‘add resource’ for submission guidelines and instructions. For ideas on how to integrate ORB content into training programs, please click here or contact us at


For those with Spanish-speaking networks, please share the following announcement of ORB’s Spanish launch:

¡mPowering Frontline Health Workers se complace en anunciar que la biblioteca en línea de ORB ya está disponible en español! ORB conecta a los trabajadores de salud de primera línea con recursos de alta calidad para capacitación e información sobre sus dispositivos móviles. ORB alberga contenido de capacitación sobre el virus del Zika que incluye herramientas y recursos que los trabajadores de salud pueden usar para aprender nueva información, actualizar sus habilidades, y asesorar a pacientes que tienen casos sospechosos o confirmados del virus del Zika. ¡Visite para encontrar materiales educativos como esta Guía de Consejería de Planificación Familiar para Mujeres en español e inglés!

Join Us for World Health Worker Week’s Twitter Chat

In honor of World Health Worker Week, we’re exploring the many ways our community can advocate for increased health worker support, training and investment during the #WHWWeek Twitter chat on Tuesday, April 4. 

From gender equality to peace and security to innovation and technology to economic growth, investing in the health workforce still proves to be one of the most cross-cutting, effective commitments our global community can make toward achieving a healthier world. As we continue to tackle the challenges that come with realizing the Global Goals, frontline health workers still remain our best bet in maintaining and advancing the gains we’ve made so far.

mPowering’s vision is a trained health worker for every woman and child. World Health Worker Week highlights the important work being done by so many of our valued partners to advance health worker training around the world.

Join us, along with Jhpiego, Frontline Health Workers Coalition, IntraHealth International, RTI, Seed Global Health, Chemonics and Johnson & Johnson, as we lift up why frontline health workers are an investment we can all get behind.