Last Mile Health’s Community Health Academy partners with governments to design and digitize curricula to upskill the community health workforce and supplement the expertise of health leaders who manage community health programs. Since its inception in 2017, these efforts have led to over 36,000 learners across more than 200 countries and regions accessing Academy content, aimed at increasing learners’ capacity to manage, sustain, and deliver high-quality community-based primary care. To align with our updated Theory of Change, we spent the past quarter integrating the Academy’s products, services, and team into our country programs in Liberia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Though we are no longer organizing the Academy as a separate team, the Academy’s programming and products continue to be central to our efforts to upskill health workers and health leaders in each of our focus countries and to globally contribute digital education content for the health workforce in low- and middle-income countries.
The global reach of the Academy’s products has provided rich feedback from a wide range of learners over the past four years. Through course surveys, we found that learners want more opportunities to interact with their peers and course instructors. Many learners also highlighted the value of having course content tailored to match the context of their country’s community health system. Informed by this feedback and demonstrated demand from our government partners, we have adopted a blended learning model for the Academy’s courses that offers a combination of virtual and in-person sessions. While we continue to deliver global training content through open source platforms, we are now focused on designing and delivering content that is driven by country-specific needs and priorities.
This spring, we launched a facilitated track for our latest course series, Financing Community Health Programs for Scale and Sustainability to allow for deeper engagement with a select cohort of learners primarily from Last Mile Health’s focus countries. Over a sixteen week period, over one hundred health systems leaders primarily from Ethiopia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Uganda, participated in interactive activities such as webinars with experts, virtual office hours, and socially distanced in-person gatherings. To foster connections among learners, we leveraged digital platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram to create peer groups and facilitated active discussion boards that learners contributed to on a weekly basis. Throughout the course series, learners were encouraged to complete a final project — an investment plan for community health — that allowed them to practice application of the skills and knowledge gained throughout the program, and receive tailored feedback from experts at the Financing Alliance for Health. Initial data collected from course participants indicates this program contributed to learning and relevant skill building, with 92% of learners reported gaining a great deal of new knowledge through the course series and 87% are very likely to apply the content they learned in their work.
“Some of us will make sure that this gain is not just limited to us as individual learners but to get the knowledge and skills translated into national development through our regular contributions to the development of our CHP (Community Health Policy) in Sierra Leone.” – Learner from Sierra Leone
Driven by our commitment to continuous monitoring, evaluation, and learning, we are now using feedback received from learners to adapt future programming and ensure newly acquired knowledge and skills are being applied within community health systems. For instance, the final project was ranked as an extremely useful course component by the majority of learners who completed the program; this is clear indication that practicum activities to deepen and encourage application of learning should continue to be a key aspect of our delivery model going forward. Building connections with other learners, experts, and facilitators is also highly valued by our learner audience. We are focusing on expanding these opportunities as we design additional blended course offerings that will be delivered in the five countries where Last Mile Health works. Inconsistent internet access and difficulty meeting course deadlines were identified as key challenges for learners; and the course delivery team made real-time adaptations to address these including extending the course timeline, eliminating weekly deadlines for course activities, and developing downloadable text versions of the courses. As we refine content and delivery options for health systems leaders in our focus countries, we are working to understand and identify learning needs in collaboration with country teams and their partners, and map out a process for customizing delivery of our educational programs that further integrates this learning and is aligned with these needs.