This article was originally featured in the GBCHealth May 2019 Newsletter.
The Community Health Academy’s first leadership course brings together learners from 155 countries to advance community health programs worldwide.
Studies how that training high-performing community health workers (CHWs) can save more than three million lives annually, when integrated into the primary health care system. Unfortunately, many community health worker programs are plagued by ineffective training and support, and fail to meet their full potential.
Last Mile Health, an organization that has worked for more than a decade to support governments to build national community health systems, believes that digital technology holds the potential to transform how CHWs and health systems leaders are trained. Founded with the 2017 TED Prize, the Community Health Academy partners with Ministries of Health to strengthen the clinical skills of community health workers and the capacity of health systems leaders to build higher-quality systems by leveraging the power of digital training tools.
The Academy is building a global classroom for current and next generation health system leaders. Working with a network of expert practitioners from organizations and governments across Africa, Asia and the Americas, the Academy is providing free, open, online, university-quality courses for health systems leaders to improve the quality of national community health systems.
This month, the Academy launched its first leadership course, co-produced with Harvard University and edX, on “Strengthening Community Health Workers to Deliver Primary Health Care.” This course explores how to build, optimize and advocate for national community health worker programs, drawing on case studies from Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Liberia as well as lessons learned from a range of experts from around the world. To date, learners from over 155 countries have already enrolled in the course. The course is a 20-hour self-paced program requiring approximately 2-4 hours per week. Participants will learn:
- Core concepts in community health as part of primary health systems
- Key components in the design and optimization of community health worker programs as exemplified through country case studies
- How to advocate for community health worker programs with key stakeholders
- The evidence demonstrating the impact and returns of community health workers
- How to build coalitions to support government-led programs
- How to break down silos and reduce duplicative efforts in the wider community health ecosystem
- The common issues that arise in implementing community health worker programs at scale
Digitization Partnerships with Ministries of Health
In parallel, the Academy is supporting Ministries of Health to digitize their national CHW curricula, equipping CHWs with high-quality, on-demand, accessible and engaging digital education materials directly in their communities. Deployed on an open-source Android application, the Academy’s CHW training platform delivers educational text, video, animation, gaming and quiz content, and collects detailed data on user activity.
Starting in Liberia, Last Mile Health is working with the Ministry of Health to digitize and enhance the National Community Health Assistant Program curriculum, recently deploying devices to 60% of Liberia’s CHWs and nurse supervisors with educational content on malaria and malnutrition. By enhancing the standard, upfront, in-person learning that is typical of CHW training programs, Last Mile Health believes the platform will transform CHW training, evaluation and performance to ensure they are delivering the highest standard of care possible.
Ultimately, the Academy aims to partner with Ministries of Health to digitize national curricula for over 16,000 CHWs and upskill over 15,000 community health systems leaders by 2021. GBCHealth newsletter readers have an opportunity to join learners from 155 countries in taking the first leadership course at harvardx.link/chws, or join the Academy’s regional faculty network at communityhealthacademy.org.