Category Archives: General

Five Investments Countries Can Make for Healthier People and Economies

mPowering’s work focuses on helping to build strong health workforces, and health systems, by building collaborative systems to connect health workers to the training and information they need. A recent article by Pape Gaye, CEO of IntraHealth International, explored some important aspects of how countries and stakeholders can focus efforts to respond to the global health workforce crisis. The article resonated with our team, and is cross-posted below with permission from IntraHealth’s Vital blog.

 

By pooling our resources and know-how, we can help solve the health workforce crisis—and build stronger economies.

There is a crisis in our global health workforce. A looming shortage of 18 million skilled workers stands between us and the promise of universal health coverage—and the economies it could help stimulate.

But how do we recruit more smart, capable workers to this field around the world? How do we make the most of the health workers we have? And how can countries build the fit-for-purpose workforces they need to foster healthy, productive populations, which are a must for economic growth?

I spend every day thinking about these questions and looking for answers in the countries where IntraHealth International works.

These problems are too big for the public sector alone.

For years, global health and development have been the domains of aid workers and the public sector, of governments and nongovernmental agencies, all working with limited resources to solve huge problems in the midst of other huge problems—meeting the need for new hospitals and health centers in the remotest regions, for example, while also struggling to bring much-needed electricity and roads to them.

These problems are too big for the public sector alone. We need new stakeholders, and an all-new architecture for working together—not only for greater global good, but for greater economic well-being, as well.

As I sat with my fellow speakers on stage at The Economist’s Innovating Economies summit in Nairobi this month, I was inspired by the collective potential we have to tackle problems in new ways—together. Take Google, for instance. The company wants to do more business in Africa, but recognizes the need for a stronger foundation there to do that—consistent access to good roads, reliable power, clean water.

These are problems public-sector players have been dealing with for decades.

So why not solve these problems together? By pooling our resources and know-how with businesses and creating thriving mixed markets for health care, we can help solve the health workforce crisis and help countries build stronger populations and economies.

I have a few ideas for how we can work together to get there:

Better data use.

We in global health and development collect a lot of data, but we have a lot to learn about how to best use them. By harnessing the data we have, we can help close the gap between the need for and availability of health workers in many countries.

In Kenya, for example, there’s a tremendous opportunity for all stakeholders—from the Ministry of Health and USAID to private-sector partners such as Procter & Gamble and Microsoft—to come together and put powerful health workforce data to use. Those data could help the public sector develop county-by-county strategies, tailoring each region’s workforce to its population’s needs and ensuring a steady pipeline of health supplies.

Stronger education and training institutions.

Aspiring health workers need access to education that is high-quality and within their financial reach. Programs such as the Afya Elimu Fund, a low-interest student loan program, are making this possible for Kenya’s health workforce and presenting ample opportunities for partnership.

The fund was established in 2013 with the US Agency for International Development through IntraHealth’s FUNZOKenya project, and is a joint venture of IntraHealth, the Higher Education Loans Board, the Kenya Healthcare Federation, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Planning and Devolution, and private-sector contributors.

To date, it has received more than US$5 million from various organizations and funded over 9,000 students to become health workers. The fund aims to raise the number to 20,000 by 2018.

A focus on primary health care.

When it comes to building our health workforces, we should focus not only on specialized cadres, but also on the generalists on the front lines of care. Universal health coverage will never happen without the nurses, midwives, community health workers, and others who provide primary health care and essential live-saving services every day. We should invest in building both public and private networks of health workers and mixed markets that maximize impact and minimize out-of-pocket payments, especially for the poorest.

Tap into the diaspora.

During West Africa’s Ebola crisis, we saw people from all over the globe with ancestral roots in that region raise their hands and say, ‘I want to help.’ As Yvonne Mburu, CEO of Med in Africa, pointed out at the summit, there’s a great desire among the diaspora to get involved in improving health care, and great potential for sharing expertise.

Establishing sustainable mechanisms that allow the diaspora to help not only during emergencies but, for example, through short-term assignments wherein they can work shoulder-to-shoulder with their counterparts in low-income countries could help build relationships and greater expertise among local health workers and officials.

Policies that pave the way for collaboration.

We need to work with the private sector to help create a policy environment that makes it easier for them to be involved in global health and development in substantial ways—beyond writing checks. The public sector can no longer afford to treat private-sector health care providers as “the competition.” Policies need to reflect the complementary natures of public and private health care services.

Our health workforce crisis will not go away on its own. The global demand for health care will only continue to rise as populations grow—and get older. And as African economies mature, more leaders are looking to health as a powerful investment, not just in well-being, but in their economic development.

The problem remains a global one. Now we must find the global willingness and resources to solve it.

What we’re reading: mHIFA’s Assessment of mHealth Applications Report

mPowering’s work has been featured in mHIFA’s latest report, titled Assessment of mHealth applications for their potential to provide essential healthcare information for citizens in low resource settings.

This report assessed mobile apps based on significance of the health problem addressed, appropriateness of the content and technology for target audiences, value of information, ease of information assimilation (is the info presented in an easy to understand way?), app availability (is it free and/or available across several regions/countries?), and technological accessibility of the app (is the interface simple, does it work on a basic/feature phone, is it free to the user?).

The report credits ORB’s progress toward making training materials increasingly accessible and effective for health worker training. OppiaMobile was highlighted for “making the app development process much easier to devolve to national or regional bodies to ensure apps are tailored to local needs.” mPowering has used OppiaMobile to deliver content in collaborative training programs in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zambia, and more.

Additionally, mPowering’s Open Deliver approach is mentioned as a useful method for “combining existing, open-source technologies into an integrated process for app design, content modification/production, deployment to mobiles, and usage monitoring”

Other programs and technologies reviewed include The Safe Delivery App, videos from Medical Aid Films, the Red Cross First Aid app, Mobile Kunji, Health Phone and others. This assessment is a useful tool for programs seeking guidance for applying mobile tools to their training. You can read the report here!

HIFA (Health Information for All) is a trusted social network aiming to improve access to healthcare information in many of the countries within which mPowering works. mHIFA (mobile HIFA), seeks to expand mobile access of healthcare information.

Join HIFA

Scale the Technology Now: Separating Content and Technology in Digital Health

At this year’s Global Digital Health Forum, I was excited to see the range of ways that digital tools are helping us move towards a healthier world. Despite the variation in the types of programs presented, two questions came up in nearly every conference session: “How do we get these approaches to scale, quickly and sustainably?” and “How can we evaluate these approaches to understand which parts are most effective?”

A new white paper from mPowering and Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™ proposes a simple solution to help answer these questions: separate the technology and its content. Scale the Technology Now balances public health and engineering perspectives to propose a new way of looking at the procurement, implementation, and evaluation of mobile health programs.

Most mobile health systems consist of two basic parts: a channel and its content.  For example, a smartphone (channel) can be used to distribute educational videos (content) to a health worker.

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Despite these two distinct parts, analyses of health interventions too rarely separate the functionality of the channel from the effectiveness of the content. For example, systematic reviews may consist of programs which only share the fact that the programs utilize technology, despite their separate methods, goals, and contexts. Viewing the technology and the content as a single element makes it difficult to accurately assess the success of either factor.

Scale the Technology Now reminds us that “In almost all cases… the engineering problem is ‘solved’ long before the problem related to the health intervention is addressed.” The crucial elements of a successful digital health system are found in the content, deployment, and context, rather than the basic functions of specific software or hardware.

This same idea helped mPowering develop the Open Deliver process for mobile content delivery. Open Deliver is a process-based solution designed to provide educational content to workforces in low-resource settings. It streamlines digital content delivery by reconfiguring existing technologies into a single integrated process. For example, Open Deliver enables content from mPowering’s freely available ORB platform to be structured through a learning management system and delivered to health workers via a user-friendly mobile application.

Separating content and technology increases our ability to create processes and systems that can cross sectors and easily adapt to improvements in technology. It allows us to see mobile training processes and technologies not as approaches for a specific audience or subject area but as distribution methods that could be used for health, agriculture, disaster response, or nearly any other area.

To learn more, read Scale the Technology Now: Applying Engineering Principles to Promote Rapid Deployment of Mobile Digital Content Delivery Systems, which was authored by Mike Bailey for mPowering Frontline Health Workers, with sponsorship from Qualcomm Wireless Reach. It is available on our web site here, and we welcome your questions or responses at info@mpoweringhealth.org

 

Photo credit: Kate Holt/ MCSP

mPowering at the Global Digital Health Forum

mPowering Frontline Health Workers is pleased to participate in this year’s Global Digital Health Forum. The mPowering team will be participating in several sessions and events covering our work in mobile training, shared content, and more.

Join us for the Mobile Content Distribution for Health Worker Training session, which will focus on mPowering’s end-to-end content delivery method: Open Deliver. You’ll learn from case studies and experience examples of integrating digital content and tools into health worker training. This session will take place on Wednesday, December 14 at 1:15 PM.

In addition to mPowering’s session, hear from our team in these sessions:

We’re also looking forward to launching a new piece of research at the Forum – Scale the Technology Now is a new White Paper supported by Qualcomm Wireless Reach. Be sure to follow @mPoweringHealth on Twitter for more news on that paper, as well as live updates on these and other #GDHF2016 events!

mPowering Seeking Research and Mobile Content Intern

Research and Mobile Content Associate

Scope of Work for Research and Mobile Content Intern

Background: mPowering Frontline Health Workers (mPowering) is a USAID partnership that aims to contribute to the elimination of preventable child and maternal deaths by accelerating the use of mobile technology to improve the skills and performance of frontline health workers.

mPowering’s ORB content platform (health-orb.org) connects  frontline health workers and trainers to high-quality, mobile-optimized training content. ORB brings into one space curated, quality- assured, multimedia materials from multiple content developers; and the content covers the RMNCH spectrum for health workers and supervisors. mPowering also works in building collaborations to help governments use the power of mobile technology to strengthen maternal and child health services, sustainably and at scale. mPowering promotes sharing of learning and ideas to generate evidence and information on the use of mobile technology by frontline health workers.

Position Overview:  The Research and Mobile Content Intern will assist with data collection and desk review efforts devoted to two research projects – one on evaluation for mHealth programs, and another synthesizing mPowering’s Global Learning outputs. In addition, the intern will support mPowering’s ORB platform, including identifying new content and, coordinating posting of new content to mPowering’s ORB platform, and carry out other duties as assigned.

The Intern will work closely with mPowering’s Senior Program Coordinator and Sr. Country Advisor in the Maternal and Child Survival Program (MSCP) offices in Washington, D.C.  This is a part-time position, paid on an hourly basis.

Period of Performance: Date of hire through May 2016, with possibility of extension.

Activities:  The following activities illustrate the types of work that will be carried out by the employee, though other related duties may be requested.

  1. Research and Global Learning:
  • Support ongoing desk research to collect and review studies devoted to the evaluation of mHealth technology. Assist in summarizing the results of the review.
  • Assist in the collection and analysis of data related to ongoing research activities, which will be distributed to members of mPowering’s network (as well as other channels of distribution).
  • Analyze mPowering’s Global Learning outputs from program inception to date for key themes to inform upcoming synthesis.
  • Assist with background research on training approaches, country programs, or other relevant topics as requested
  • Respond to partner inquiries and carry out partner-requested research tasks
  • Attend partner-led and other public events and brief mPowering team
  1. ORB Content Support:
  • Scan resources submitted to ORB to determine which content should be forwarded to our Content Review Team.
  • Upload content onto ORB and identify new content and content providers to initiate new submissions to the ORB content review process.
  • Communicate with mHealth audiences (trainers, content developers, etc.) to facilitate use of ORB
  • Participate in presentations and webinars to promote ORB content, as appropriate
  • Provide input into future developments for ORB, with an emphasis on country ownership and sustainability
  • Structure ORB content into training courses for country programs, as needed.

Deliverables: Deliverables will be related to the above activities, with format, deadlines, and other details to be agreed upon by the intern and supervisor.

Qualifications:

  • Enrollment in relevant Master’s level program.
  • Strong research and information organization skills in public health.
  • Experience (academic or professional) with education/training for health professionals.
  • Interest in the use of mobile technology for health; mobile health experience is a plus.
  • Excellent and analytical writing skills.
  • Professional skills, including strong interpersonal skills, organization, and willingness to learn.

 

To Apply: Please send a resume or CV and short covering note to info@mpoweringhealth.org.