mPossible! Health Workers Can Get Training Anytime, Anywhere with Interactive Voice Response

This post originally appeared on the K4Health blog.

Advances in mobile health—or mHealth—have expanded the realm of possibility for remote education, diagnostic and treatment support, communication and training, disease tracking, monitoring, and data collection. Every day, mHealth grows to include more sophisticated applications for high-tech smartphones and tablets. But what about health workers—specifically those in rural areas who don’t have access to the latest technology?

To learn more about mLearning (or mobile learning) for health workers, IntraHealth International, through the CapacityPlus project, piloted an innovative program to provide refresher training to family planning service providers in Senegal using interactive voice response (IVR) technologies on basic mobile phones. Read more »

For Health Workers on Ebola’s Front Lines, Stress Management is Crucial

John LiebhardtThis post originally appeared on VITAL, the blog of IntraHealth International.

Since March 23, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) has tracked the spread of the Ebola virus through Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria.

The United Nations has spent countless hours developing and disseminating information on the risks of transmitting the disease, reassuring the public on how to protect themselves, and publishing a bevy of technical information for health workers.

Publishers such as Elsevier have enabled free access to Ebola-related research to help health workers and researchers control the outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has disseminated information on how health workers can keep themselves safe while caring for Ebola victims.

What no one is talking about, though, is how to help health workers deal with the stress of an Ebola outbreak, especially in areas that suffer from health worker shortages. Read more »

Youth Can Take the Lead in Health Governance and Accountability

This post originally appeared on VITAL, the blog of IntraHealth International.

Dr. Kate TulenkoDozens of young people participated in the 67th World Health Assembly last month in Geneva, including young people from HIV-positive communities, sexual minority communities, and health professional students and recent graduates.

Throughout the meeting, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partner leaders championed the cause of involving young people in local, national, and global health agendas. Panels on universal health coverage, HIV/AIDS, and health systems included youth speakers. The young people added energy, vibrancy, and new ideas to the meetings.

Yet beneath the enthusiasm lay some discontent. Read more »

Five Key Steps to Making the Health Workforce a Post-MDG Priority

This post originally appeared on VITAL, the blog of IntraHealth International.

Pape GayeThis is a pivotal year for the international development community.

Fourteen years ago, world leaders gathered at the United Nations headquarters and set eight major goals to reduce extreme poverty and improve lives around the world. Those Millennium Development Goals provided a shared blueprint that unified the global community and accelerated progress like never before. The deadline for the goals is 2015—just around the corner.

The big question now is this: What development goals will we set next? And how can we make even faster progress toward global health and well-being? Read more »

Picturing Our Work: Harnessing mLearning for Training Health Workers

Devika ChawlaIn this age of rapidly emerging technologies, how can we improve the way we provide training to health workers?

This is the question CapacityPlus is trying to answer with our mLearning work in Senegal. Using feedback from previous eLearning projects—such as problems with Internet connectivity and computer access—the project started looking into mLearning options that use audio to deliver training through the most basic mobile phones. But there was no suitable option.

So CapacityPlus developed its own interactive voice response (IVR) mLearning platform that delivers training to health workers on their mobile phones, meaning that health workers can remain at their posts and continue providing care in their communities. Read more »

Strengthening the Health Workforce through eHealth Innovation: Reflections from the GETHealth Summit

Dr. Kate TulenkoI recently had the privilege of representing CapacityPlus at the Global Education and Technology Health (GETHealth) Summit at the United Nations in New York City, speaking in sessions on distance learning in rural communities and leveraging social media to address the global health workforce gap.

While eHealth and mHealth conferences tend to be geared toward the American and European markets, I found GETHealth refreshing and timely in its focus on lower-resource settings—in fact, the governments of Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda cohosted the summit.

Developing countries face different challenges including bandwidth, mobile phone service geographic coverage, and illiteracy that must be addressed when pursuing eHealth and mHealth solutions. GETHealth brought global thought leaders in health, education, and ICT together to discuss and develop technology-driven initiatives designed to empower health workers and the resource-limited communities they serve. Read more »

Picturing Our Work: Protecting Health Workers

“To the doctors and pharmacists who died, victims of their devoutness during the epidemic of 1878, Gorée.”

In this photo from Ile de Gorée, an island off the coast of Dakar, Senegal, Carie Cox reminds us how health workers often sacrifice their own health or safety in order to care for their patients. In many countries, they may not have essential supplies to protect themselves or face occupational hazards or other safety concerns. Instead of contracting yellow fever in 1878, as the statue references, they may be exposed to HIV and risk infection because they have no postexposure prophylaxis. They may contract a serious illness because they don’t have access to clean running water to wash their hands. They may travel dangerous roads at night on the way to or from the health facility. They may be targets for attack during armed conflict. Read more »

Mobile Apps to Support Community Health Workers: Adapting Trusted Content to New Mediums

This post was originally published on the IntraHealth International blog. Lily Walkover and Robin Young describe how Hesperian Health Guides is adapting its trusted sources of health information into open source mobile applications for community health workers.

Lily WalkoverIn developing countries around the world, as many as 50% of people are now using cell phones. Access to cell phones is certainly greater than access to reliable health care and health information! Yet in the emerging field of mHealth—the use of mobile phones to support health—the focus has veered significantly toward data collection. At Hesperian Health Guides (publisher of Where There Is No Doctor), we’ve been part of a conversation to expand that focus and include using mobile phones to deliver health information to community health workers and the people they support.

Health educators all over the world have told us how they have adapted our print resources to their needs. At times this has meant literally cutting up images and text with scissors in order to prepare presentations, handouts, and other materials to provide accessible health information to their communities. This hunger for resources combined with enormous user creativity has motivated us to design mobile apps that not only make health information more accessible, but also facilitate adaptation, feedback, translation, and conversion into new formats for lower-end mobile technologies. Read more »

mHealth Africa Summit—the Personal Emerging

This post is excerpted from an original post on the IntraHealth International blog.

Dykki SettleLike the mHealth Summit in Washington, DC in November, the mHealth Africa Summit in Accra, Ghana was well-organized and filled with energy. It was also much smaller. This meant that the conversations were intimate and impassioned, and as expected, much more personal.

As my colleague Piers Bocock at Management Sciences for Health pointed out in his blog, this conference offered great examples of country ownership. Like Piers, I, too, learned far more at this inaugural and important conference than I felt able to teach. It also offered me a great opportunity to hear more about the ways mobile phones were already being used by health workers, which I think is key to mHealth’s success, traction, and scalability. Read more »

Crowdsourcing: The New Buzz in Productivity and Quality

Laura WurtsCapacityPlus is developing a crowdsourcing application and exploring pilot sites in several countries. This initiative will allow the general public with any mobile telephone—with simple SMS texting capability—to report on the presence or absence of health workers, patient waiting times, or other selected quality or productivity indicators at any given clinic at any point in time.

Unless health workers report to their assigned facilities at the agreed upon hours and efficiently manage their time, increasing the production of qualified health workers is meaningless.

However, a relatively easy method for improving health worker productivity is through crowdsourcing. Read more »

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