Health Delivery Systems

Supporting Access to Immunization through Supplementary Immunization Activities

By Abubakar Shehu and Emerald Awa- Agwu

Supplementary Immunization Activities (SIAs) are one of the four strategies put forward by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988. In Nigeria, SIAs include Immunization Plus Days (IPDs), Outbreak Responses (OBRs) and other immunization outreaches conducted by the Nigerian government and its polio eradication partners. The aim of SIAs is to interrupt the transmission of the poliovirus by immunizing all children under five years of age with two doses of oral polio vaccine irrespective of their previous immunization status—unimmunized, partially covered or fully immunized.

A child receiving the Oral Polio Vaccine

A child receiving the Oral Polio Vaccine

SIAs are intended to complement Routine Immunization. However, in some areas, they represent the major strategy for catching unimmunized children and ensuring that they are vaccinated against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Access to routine immunization services may be hindered for a variety of reasons including:

  • Challenges with cold chain equipment leading to vaccine damage and loss of potency, and eventually, unavailability of vaccines. Caregivers are often reluctant to return to health facilities where vaccines were unavailable. This results in missed opportunities to commence or complete the vaccination course.

  • Security challenges that make health facilities hard to reach by caregivers who bring children for immunization.

  • Access-related challenges such as caregivers having to travel long distances to the health facility or being unable to afford the cost of transportation

  • Wrong myths or perceptions about vaccinations such as loss of fertility as a result of vaccination.

SIAs take immunization services directly to children at their doorsteps, thereby bridging any gaps that may result from an inability to access vaccines at the health facilities. By achieving a vaccination coverage of at least 80% (that is, by vaccinating at least 80% of the targeted children with a potent vaccine), herd immunity can be achieved and the poliovirus can be deprived of the susceptible hosts which it needs to survive.

Through Supplementary Immunization Activities, children who were missed by routine immunization services can be reached with life-saving vaccines

Through Supplementary Immunization Activities, children who were missed by routine immunization services can be reached with life-saving vaccines

Prior to 2012, Nigeria had been conducting SIAs but was still recording cases of wild poliovirus (WPV). After a holistic examination of the immunization program, it was discovered that there was a huge disparity between the actual versus reported immunization coverage. Reports from independent monitoring and supervision groups showed that the actual vaccination coverage of the SIAs was much lower than the reported coverage. There were many missed settlements and an even larger number of missed children. It was discovered that some vaccination teams never visited the communities, instead, they would discard the vaccines and record false information in the tally sheets to account for the empty vials. Not only was this frustrating the polio eradication efforts, but it was also causing the health system huge losses as a result of the wasted vaccines.

It became imperative to develop a methodology to improve vaccination coverage and ensure that the vaccination teams visited all the target settlements during SIAs. This led to the development and deployment of the Vaccination Tracking System (VTS) in 2012.

VTS provides healthcare administrators and partners in the polio eradication space with daily insight into the activities of vaccination teams during SIAs by collecting passive tracks of the vaccination teams using Geographic Information Systems (GIS technology-enabled android phones and uploading them onto a dashboard for visualization. This provides stakeholders with near-live data about the geo-coverage of the vaccination campaign. The system also identifies missed settlements on a daily basis so that immediate action can be taken and the settlements can be included in the ongoing campaign. Another benefit of the VTS is that it increases the accountability of vaccination teams because the vaccinators know that they are under constant supervision. This greatly reduces the risk of data falsification.

The VTS dashboard provides decision-makers with near-real-time data about the progress of immunization campaigns and outreaches

The VTS dashboard provides decision-makers with near-real-time data about the progress of immunization campaigns and outreaches

So far, VTS has been used to track 82 supplementary immunization activities in 30 states of Nigeria. A significant proportion of these states have seen an exponential increase in the vaccination geo-coverage rates from the first campaign tracked to the last tracked campaign.

Increase in vaccination coverage rates

Increase in vaccination coverage rates

VTS makes sure that eligible children who, for any reason, are unable to receive their vaccinations through the routine immunization sessions at the health facilities, have a second chance to be protected against vaccine-preventable diseases like Polio and Meningitis.

Innovations in Newborn Sickle Cell Screening

By ZIllah Waminaje

In Africa, 50% to 90% of children who have sickle cell die before their fifth birthday1. To improve their chances of survival, health systems must integrate Newborn Screening (NBS) for Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) with comprehensive treatment and management plans.

For almost five decades, newborn screening for SCD has been conducted using conventional procedures such as electrophoretic techniques, isoelectric focusing (IEF), high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and DNA analysis, which require specialized laboratories with stable electricity, long sample processing times, expensive equipment and reagents, and highly skilled personnel. These methods, while ideal and feasible for developed countries, are inappropriate for low-resource settings like sub-Saharan Africa where 70% of SCD sufferers reside.

Screening with Sickle SCAN Device

Screening with Sickle SCAN Device

Sickle SCAN is an innovative, cost-effective point-of-care (POC) device that has been developed by Biomedics Inc. to address the challenges of SCD diagnostics in low-resource settings. It is a simple rapid point-of-care test kit that can detect the presence of Hemoglobin A, S, and C and yield results within 5 minutes using blood from a heel/ finger prick or vein. In addition to newborn screening, the Sickle SCAN device can be used for premarital/preconception genetic counseling, blood donor screening, and general screening.

Sickle SCAN

Sickle SCAN

Several features make the Sickle SCAN ideal for low-resource settings and large-scale mass screening programs. The first is that it does not require specialized technical knowledge to administer or read the test results. Anyone can be trained to use the device. The device does not require any special equipment or electricity and thus, eliminates the time, resources and logistics needed to transport samples to a laboratory. Finally, the short result turnaround time allows for the prompt identification of SC-positive babies so that early treatment can commence and survival rates can improve.

Since December 2018, eHealth Africa has partnered with Sickle Cell Well Africa Foundation (SCWAF), Pro-Health International and the Presidential Committee on the North- East Initiative (PCNI) to hold Sickle Cell awareness and testing outreaches in Adamawa, Bauchi, and Gombe states. Over 1000 people in all three states were screened using Sickle SCAN rapid diagnostic test kits. Patients who tested positive for sickle cell disease were immediately given routine medication and referred to sickle cell clinics.

Sickle Cell Outreach in Hong LGA, Adamawa

Sickle Cell Outreach in Hong LGA, Adamawa

Since healthcare in many African countries is community-based, rapid POC test kits like the Sickle SCAN can be easily integrated into existing health programs like routine immunization at primary health care centers or health insurance schemes to facilitate universal screening and ensure sustainability. This will ensure that relevant data on SCD births, morbidity and mortality rates and long term outcomes are captured.

Sickle Cell Awareness and Testing Outreach in Toro LGA, Bauchi

Sickle Cell Awareness and Testing Outreach in Toro LGA, Bauchi

eHealth Africa continues to work with partners to address health inequalities by ensuring equal access to quality and effective diagnostic tools to achieve universal health coverage.

How eHealth Africa supports Universal Health Coverage across Africa

By Emerald Awa- Agwu

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April 7 is World Health Day and this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

WHO: Universal Health Coverage - What does it mean?

Good health is crucial for developing economies and reducing poverty. Governments and decision-makers need to strengthen health systems so that people can get the healthcare and services that they need to maintain and improve their health, and stay productive.  However, improving access to health services is incomplete if people plunge further into poverty because of the cost of health care. WHO estimates that over 800 million people spend at least 10% of their household budget on health care which is indicative of catastrophic health expenditure (CHE).  CHE can mean that households have to cut down on or forfeit necessities such as food and clothing, education for their children or even sell household goods.

One of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 3—Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages— is to achieve universal health coverage by 2030. Therefore, achieving UHC has become a major goal for health system reforms in many countries, especially in Africa.

Through our projects and solutions, eHealth Africa supports countries across Africa to strengthen the six pillars of universal health coverage.

1. Health Financing for Universal Health Coverage

WHO recommends that no less than 15% of national budgets should be allocated to health. We believe that accurate and up to date data, can ensure that available health funds are better allocated. In Nigeria,  we worked with several partners to map and collect geospatial data through the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) program. Data relating to over 22 points of interest categories including health facilities, was collected across 25 states and the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria. This data helps decision-makers to distribute resources and plan interventions that target the people who need it most.

2. Essential Medicines and Health products

Vaccines are some of the most essential health commodities

Vaccines are some of the most essential health commodities

Countries decide what medicines and health commodities are essential based on the illnesses suffered by the majority or significant sections of their population. They must also ensure that quality, safe and effective medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and other medical devices are readily available and affordable.

When essential medicines and health products are procured, it is important to maintain proper records and to ensure that health facilities do not run out of stock. eHealth Africa created Logistics Management Information System (LoMIS), a suite of mobile and web applications, LoMIS Stock and LoMIS Deliver that address challenges in the supply of essential medicines and health products such as vaccines and drugs. In Kano State, health workers at the facility level use the LoMIS Stock mobile application to send weekly reports on the vaccine stock levels, essential drug stock levels and the status of cold chain equipment. Supervisors can view the reports in near real-time through the LoMIS Stock Dashboard and plan deliveries of medicines and health products to prevent stockouts of vaccines and essential drugs, using LoMIS Deliver. LoMIS Deliver reduces errors by automating the process of ledger entry to capture the number of vaccines on-hand at the facility and the quantity delivered.

3. Health systems governance

Health system governance according to the WHO is governance undertaken with the aim of protecting and promoting the health of the people. It involves ensuring that a strategic policy framework exists and providing oversight to ensure its implementation. Relevant policies, regulations, and laws must be put in place to ensure accountability across the health system as a whole (public and private health sector actors alike).  Effective health systems governance can only be achieved with the collaboration of stakeholders and partners who will support the government by providing reliable information to inform policy formulation and amendments. Over the years, we have worked with several partners to provide this support.

4. Health workforce

Health systems can only deliver care through the health workforce

Health systems can only deliver care through the health workforce

The attainment of UHC is dependent on the availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality of health workers1. They must not only be equitably distributed and accessible by the population, but they must also possess the required knowledge and skills to deliver quality health care that marries contextual appropriateness with best practices.

Recognizing this, eHA supports the Kano State Primary Health Care Management Board (KSPHCMB) to improve health service delivery by providing health workers in Kano State with access to texts, audio courses, and training modules through an eLearning solution. Through the eLearning web and mobile-enabled platform, health workers can gain useful skills and knowledge on a wide range of topics. Read about the pilot of the eLearning solution here.

In Sierra Leone, we work with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) to implement the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP). Through FETP, public health workers at the district and national level gain knowledge about important epidemiological principles and are equipped with skills in case/ outbreak investigations, data analysis, and surveillance. This positions Sierra Leone to meet the Global Health Security Agenda target of having 1 epidemiologist per 200,000 population. In addition, we support Sierra Leone’s MoHS to build additional capacity in frontline Community Health Officers (CHOs), who are based at the Chiefdom level through the management and leadership training program. CHOs are often the first point of contact for primary care for the local population and the MLTP program equips them to provide better health services and improve health outcomes at their facilities.

5. Health Statistics and Information Systems

In line with our strategy, we create tools and solutions that help health systems across Africa to curate and exchange data and information for informed decision making and future planning.  The Electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (eIDSR) solution has been used in Sierra Leone and Liberia to transform data collection, reporting, analysis, and storage for a more efficient response and surveillance of priority diseases. Its integration with DHIS2, a health information system used in over 45 countries, makes it easy for health system decision makers to visualize data and gain insight into the state of public health. Read more about our other solutions Aether and VaxTrac. In addition, we also support the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) by creation and maintenance of a data portal which serves as a repository for all datasets that are relevant to detecting, responding and preventing disease outbreaks in Nigeria.

6. Service delivery and safety

Staff at the Kano Lab

Staff at the Kano Lab

The Service delivery and safety pillar encompasses a large spectrum of issues including patient safety and risk management, quality systems and control, Infection prevention and control, and innovations in service delivery. With our experience working to respond to polio and ebola virus emergencies across Africa, we support health systems to mount prevention and control programs at the national and facility level. We are also committed to creating new technologies and solutions that can help health providers to develop better models of healthcare. We also construct health facilities ranging from clinics to laboratory and diagnostic facilities that utilize state of the art technology to correctly diagnose diseases such as Sickle Cell Disease, Meningitis, and Malaria.

Our Sokoto Meningitis Lab has been at the forefront of meningitis testing and surveillance in Northern Nigeria, offering reliable and prompt diagnoses to support the prevention of future outbreaks.

eHealth Africa continues to work with governments, communities and health workers so that everyone can obtain the quality health care, in a prompt manner and from health workers and facilities within their communities, thus achieving universal health coverage.

eHealth Africa supports data collection on the prevalence of Hepatitis B in three districts in Sierra Leone

eHealth Africa (eHA) is supporting data collection on the prevalence of Hepatitis B in the Bo and Bombali districts, and Western Urban area in Sierra Leone, through its Hepatitis B Sero Survey project. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is funding this project.

A Sero Survey is a test of blood serum from a group of individuals to determine seroprevalence.

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The African Regional Committee of the World Health Organization in 2014, endorsed a resolution to reduce chronic Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection prevalence to <2% in children less than 5 years of age in all member states by 2020. In Sierra Leone, there is no accurate data on Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) infection among children and women of childbearing age. Hence the need for a survey to determine the prevalence of HBV infection among infants, children and women of childbearing age in order to inform the HBV vaccination policy of Sierra Leone.

In 2007, the country introduced the Hepatitis B vaccine as a component of the pentavalent vaccine provided at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age. However, a birth dose of Hepatitis B vaccine recommended by WHO to prevent mother - to - child HBV transmission is not yet included in the routine immunization schedule.

The Hepatitis B community serosurvey conducted in the 3 districts, targeted some 2,544 infants aged 4- 24 months and their biological mothers to evaluate the risk of mother to child transmission and subsequent need for a Hepatitis B vaccine birth dose; and also 2,332 children aged 5- 9 years to assess the impact of childhood pentavalent vaccine on the prevalence of Hepatitis B virus infection among children.

Prior to collecting data, a five- day classroom and practical field training was conducted to:

  • build the knowledge of the surveyors

  • identify households

  • counsel families ahead of the survey

  • conduct a rapid diagnostic test on Hepatitis B and  the processing and tracking of venous blood specimen

As part of the training, a practical field exercise was also conducted to pretest participants’ knowledge on the classroom training.

eHA is a technology-driven organization. In a drive to discourage potential errors via paper-based methods and to present an automated approach to health data collection, eHA also trained supervisors and phlebotomists on the use of the Open Data Kit (ODK) tool. eHA provided the phones and data for the survey and installed the ODK  app (which is used for data collection in the field), the age= app for age calculation, and the  ODK dashboard. With ODK, data collection is done easily, and survey activities monitored in near real time.

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A total of 3,934 forms were submitted via the ODK tool of which 3,158 (80%) of households visited were willing to participate in the survey. Out of the 2,232 households selected for children aged 2 months - 24 months, 1,704 children were enrolled which is 76% and 1,604 biological mothers of these children were also enrolled.

For the 5-9 year-olds, out of the 2,250 households selected, 80% participated with 1,811 enrolled. For children with vaccination cards, 1,186 were enrolled and 401 for the 5- 9 year- olds. A total of 551 serum samples were collected during the 6-week community serosurvey.  

eHA continues to work with the CDC and other partners with a view to increasing the early detection and reporting of government-identified priority diseases, especially when very little is known about HBV prevalence in Sierra Leone.

Benefits of a Direct Delivery Model

By Adamu Lawan and Emerald Awa- Agwu

eHealth Africa's third- party logistics service, VDD ensures that vaccines are delivered to last mile health facilities in a timely manner

eHealth Africa's third- party logistics service, VDD ensures that vaccines are delivered to last mile health facilities in a timely manner

Vaccination is one of public health’s most cost-effective interventions. According to the World Health Organization1, it prevents between 2 million to 3 million deaths every year. Even though there has been great progress towards achieving universal coverage, there are still 20 million unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children worldwide. To reach these children and to meet global disease elimination targets, all countries must provide an uninterrupted supply of potent vaccines to the most hard-to-reach and conflict-affected areas.

Nigeria has experienced challenges in maintaining functional vaccine cold chains and supply chains, leading to low vaccination coverage rates. Nigeria’s cold chain system consists of five levels: a national cold store which stores all vaccines in the country and supplies six zonal cold stores located in each of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones. The zonal stores supply vaccines to the state cold stores, which in turn supply the LGA cold stores. The primary health care facilities staff have to visit the LGA cold stores to collect their vaccines on a weekly or daily basis depending on the status of their cold chain equipment.

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This system was inefficient and time- consuming because health workers from over 9,000 health facilities in Nigeria often had to leave work to collect vaccines when they could be treating patients instead. In addition, the system was fraught with high operational costs and poor vaccine stock visibility, especially in transit.

To alleviate this problem, the Nigerian government adopted a direct delivery model called Push Plus in 2013, to transform its supply chain at the state level. A direct delivery model is one which delivers vaccines and dry goods directly from the state cold store to the last mile health facilities according to customized schedules, bypassing the LGA warehouses completely and preventing stock-outs.

The benefits of this model have been enormous. The direct delivery model has freed up an additional 1- 6 hours each week for health workers to attend to patients—time previously spent by health workers in transit to obtain vaccines. In addition, vaccine availability at the last mile health facilities has improved. By increasing the number of health facilities that have functional cold chain equipment, health posts and smaller health facilities can receive vaccines from closer health facilities instead of going to the LGA cold store every day. This has led to a massive drop in the stock-out rate. In Kano state, vaccine stock-out rates dropped from 93% to 3% and in Lagos State, from 43% to none. Not surprisingly, the immunization coverage of Lagos State increased from 57% to 88%. WHO2 lists vaccine shortages and stock-outs as a major cause of missed opportunities to vaccinate.

Nigeria is projected to spend about US$ 450 million by 2020 on vaccines, By increasing vaccine accountability and visibility, the direct delivery model has also reduced the amount of money that could be lost due to wastage and pilfering of vaccines.

eHealth Africa implemented Vaccine Direct Delivery, a third-party logistics service based on the direct delivery model in Kano State from 2014 to 2016 and currently implements it in Bauchi and Sokoto states. We work with the state primary healthcare development agencies to ensure that vaccines and dry goods are delivered safely and in a timely manner to health facilities. Using our LoMIS Deliver solution, eHA plans, schedules, and routes deliveries to enable health delivery officers choose the correct quantity of vaccines and dry goods from the state cold stores and deliver them to health facilities equipped with cold chain equipment. The process of determining what quantities to deliver at the health facility is fully automated to avoid manual errors. The project also incorporates reverse logistics—returning balance stock or waste, if any to the state cold store. VDD provides governments and other stakeholders with accurate, near real-time data for decision making and forecasting.

Through VDD, over 28 million doses of vaccines have been delivered to health facilities in Kano, Bauchi and Sokoto State from 2014 to date, reaching over 13 million children under the age of one. eHealth Africa continues to support governments across Africa with system-level approaches to transforming health service delivery.

Partnering to Address Sickle Cell Disease in Northern Nigeria

By Muhammed Hassan

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Nigeria alone accounts for more than 100,000 new sickle cell births every year1. Statistics from African region of the World Health Organization (WHO) puts the prevalence of the Sickle cell trait in Nigeria at 20% to 30%2. In sub-Saharan Africa, very few control programs exist and those that do exist, lack national coverage or the facilities to manage patients. Proactive, routine screening for sickle cell disease is not common practice so diagnosis is usually made when a severe complication occurs.

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At eHealth Africa, we aim to improve the quality and availability of healthcare for underserved populations and to increase access to timely and quality diagnostic services. We partnered with Sickle Cell Well Africa Foundation (SCWAF), Pro-Health International and the Presidential Committee on the North- East Initiative (PCNI) to hold a two-week outreach in Bajoga LGA, Gombe state, and Toro LGA in Bauchi State from the 2nd-16th December 2018.

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The team hosted community and school outreaches in both LGAs. Beneficiaries of the outreaches in both LGAs were educated about Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), inheritance, signs and symptoms, and the importance of genotype testing for SCD and prevention. Free genotype tests were conducted using the Sickle Scan Rapid Test Kit.

Patients who tested positive for SCD and those who presented with severe complications were given routine medication, advised on first-level crisis management and referred to tertiary hospitals. eHealth Africa captured, stored and analyzed the results of the tests. The analyses provided insight into the geographic distribution of patient and the average age distribution of patients who tested positive for SCD and the categories of complications presented at the outreach.

eHealth Africa, Pro-Health and SCWAF presented these results at stakeholder meetings in both states and provided evidence-based recommendations to enable the states to tackle Sickle Cell Disease. Going forward, eHA intends to work with Pro-Health to develop a comprehensive data collection tool which will support tracking and follow up of SCD patients in Prohealth Sickle Cell Clinics.

The Impact:

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Practical Solutions to Challenges in Reporting: LoMIS Stock and eIDSR

By Abdullahi Halilu Katuka and Emerald Awa- Agwu

LoMIS Stock is an electronic stock management tool, developed by eHealth Africa as a part of a suite of mobile and web applications that address supply chain and logistics challenges in health systems, especially in Northern Nigeria. LoMIS Stock helps health workers report and keep track of vaccine stock usage and availability at the health facility level. Using these reports, their supervisors can prevent stock-outs at their health facilities by ensuring that vaccines and other commodities are always available. The information from LoMIS Stock also gives governments the real-time data that is needed to plan programs and interventions and to resolve issues.

The LoMIS Stock solution was introduced to Kano State in 2014 and is currently the official logistics management tool for Kano State Primary Health Care Management Board (KSPHCMB). Currently, the State cold store, all 44 Local Government cold stores, and 484 apex health facilities in Kano send weekly reports using the LoMIS Stock application.

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Although health facilities reporting times have dropped by over 50% and reporting rates have tripled since the introduction of LoMIS Stock, certain facilities in hard to reach areas were consistently unable to send reports due to mobile data network challenges. Gleaning from lessons learned from a similar challenge encountered with our electronic Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response System (eIDSR) solution in Sierra Leone, eHealth Africa added an SMS compression feature to the LoMIS Stock application.

In Sierra Leone, we have recorded a significant improvement in the number of facilities that send timely reports using the eIDSR application. Health facility workers in Sierra Leone use eIDSR to collect data offline on epidemiologically important diseases and send surveillance reports. Initially, in areas with poor connectivity, the application would store the reports and submit automatically as soon as an internet or mobile connection became available. However, this meant that such facilities didn’t always meet the targets for timely reporting.

Introducing the SMS compression feature enabled health workers in the defaulting facilities to send their weekly reports using a USSD short code if an internet connection or mobile data was unavailable. Thanks to this feature,  all the districts in Sierra Leone consistently exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) African region and national report completeness and timeliness targets.

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The USSD feature for LoMIS Stock has been piloted with the pharmaceutical department of KSPHCMB to monitor incoming and outgoing stocks and the results have promising. In the first month, the stock count report at the pilot health facilities shows 100% stock sufficiency reporting and 0% wastage. After the pilot period, the feature will be rolled out to all departments of KSPHCMB to allow better reporting and increased efficiency across health facilities in Kano state.

Innovative problem solving is one of our values at eHealth Africa and this is an example of how eHA develops context-specific solutions to problems in healthcare delivery.

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eHA supports skill building of Sierra Leone’s Community Health Officers

By Sibongile Chikombore and Sahr Ngaujah

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) exposed the need for increasing human resource capacity in  Sierra Leone’s fragile health system. Prior to the launch of the Community Health Officers Management and Leadership Training Program (CHO-MLTP) in 2016, there was no formal training of that nature for health professionals in the country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), Njala University, Emory University, ICAP of Columbia University, and eHealth Africa (eHA) to develop a novel training program to address this need and ultimately improve health service delivery and health outcomes in Sierra Leone. CHOs working at Community Health Centers (CHCs) were targeted to be the first cadre to receive this public health management and leadership training, given their key role as first-line health service providers and chiefdom leaders.

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The aim of the MLTP is to emphasize public health systems thinking and basic management principles needed to run effective health facilities and outreach services. The emphasis of the project is also to strengthen interpersonal communication and engagement with community leaders in order to develop practical and sustainable solutions to longstanding public health challenges.

In Sierra Leone, the Peripheral Health Units (PHU) comprise of  Community Health Centres (CHCs), Community Health Posts (CHPs) and Maternal and Child Health Post (MCHPs). CHCs are headed by a Community Health Officer (CHO). The CHC is usually located at chiefdom headquarter level and provides services to a population ranging from 5,000-10,000 people. The CHP and MCHP are both usually located at smaller villages serving about 5000 or fewer people. They are manned by Community Health Assistants (CHAs) or Dispensers and Maternal and Child Health Aides (MCH-Aides) respectively.

CHO functions at the health center largely include administrative and clinical duties. The clinical responsibilities include treatment and appropriate referrals of medical, surgical and obstetric emergencies. They also supervise the activities of other PHUs in the chiefdom and report to the District Health Management Team (DHMT).

A total of ninety-nine (99) out of one hundred and seventy (170) CHOs across eight (8) districts (Bo, Kambia, Koinadugu, Bombali, Kenema, Kailahun, Western Area Urban and Rural) have been trained so far out of 12 targeted districts nationwide. The CHOs are trained in cohorts, comprised of CHOs from two districts.

As part of the effort towards sustainability and smooth transitioning of the CHO MLTP, selected staff from MOHS and Njala University are being trained as Trainers. Saidu Mansaray, CHO at Kroobay Community Health Center, is one of 99 CHOs who has been trained by eHA through the CHO-MLTP and was subsequently nominated to be part of the key individuals to form the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), Training of Trainers (TOT) team. eHA conducted three TOT sessions for MOHS and Njala University staff who are the key MLTP implementing partners in Sierra Leone.

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I was part of the third cohort studies for the Sierra Leone CHO-MLTP. I was fortunate to be announced as one of the outstanding candidates in the CHO-MLTP Program.’
— Saidu Mansaray

The CHO MLTP has eleven (11) modules covered over a six-month period, with one of the key modules on Quality Improvement (QI). Before a CHO is eligible to graduate, he/she is expected to implement a QI project on either Improving Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Hypertension Screening at their respective health facilities over a three month (minimum) period. The QI aims to address gaps or challenges in health service delivery at facility level on HIV or Hypertension during the MLTP, but the knowledge gained can be later used to apply the QI principles on other health challenges at the facility.

Through implementation of the QI, the CHO and PHU staff are able to work together as a team to brainstorm root causes of the health challenge being faced at the  facility, come up with interventions, and prioritize interventions (based on ease of implementation and how important they are on a scale of one to five). From the prioritization matrix, the QI team from each facility then implements the interventions (also known as “change ideas”) within their own capacity, using the limited resources available.

Saidu implemented an HIV screening QI project at his health facility, where HIV testing rates were low. Prior to the implementation of the QI project, only 26% of eligible persons over 15 years old were tested for HIV. Saidu recognized that increased HIV testing would be necessary to ensure that members of his community know their HIV status and could receive appropriate care. Since the implementation of the QI project at his health facility, the HIV testing rate of eligible persons over 15 years has increased to 81%, and patients found to be positive have also started receiving HIV management care.

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This training has further helped me to manage both logistics and human resources at the facility. I am now able to use the little resources I have in my facility to produce the best of results.
— Saidu Mansaray

Saidu was also nominated to be a TOT participant after showcasing good leadership skills during his MLTP training in cohort three, has attended 3 TOT sessions organized by eHA. In December 2018, Saidu and other CHOs participated in the 3rd ToT session and was captured actively participating during the TOT workshop facilitating and presenting group work assignments to colleagues - see pictures attached below. After the TOT, Saidu and other TOT participants are expected to mentor other CHOs undergoing the MLTP nationwide.

 
I am also currently being trained to pass on the skills learned from the CHO-MLTP Program to others.
— Saidu Mansaray