By Daniel G. Datiko
From 5 – 7 of November 2015 I participated in the 22nd Canadian Conference on Global Health held in Montreal which focused on capacity building for global health. This conference was an opportunity to build on work we are doing in the SEARCH project - applied research on Health Extension Workers using e-health to strengthen equitable health systems in Southern Ethiopia - and in REACHOUT.
At the conference I presented the baseline findings of an e-Health project and raised issues to consider when implementing such projects in the community. The Ethiopian Health Extension Programme - which is the flag ship of community interventions in the country and the backbone of the health service - is an opportunity to use mHealth as stipulated under the health sector transformation plan to ensure an information revolution.
The Conference focused on capacity building for global health: in communities, institutions and countries. Capacity building is an ongoing integral process of strengthening the capacity of individuals so that future communities and institutions benefit.
Capacity building at the individual level: The future of global health is in the hands of the next generation of global health researchers created within countries and institutions. Therefore, creating learning opportunities and pathways to support the careers of emerging researchers in global health was a big part of the conference.
Capacity building at the institutional level: Community led participation in generating health and individual capacity building is shaped by institutional visions. Engagement, partnership and networking among global health researchers is necessary so that we design pragmatic interventions and shape institutions to move forward to global health agenda. Exemplary practices were shared from sub-Saharan Africa about how community based learning, local led capacity building, and training of future researchers has improved. This process is underpinned by: capacity building with institutions; the retention of global health researchers; and interdisciplinary partnership which includes flexible collaboration.
Capacity building at the community level or society: There are a wealth of resources and knowledge in communities that remain untapped and require support to be used effectively. Participatory action research has demonstrated a breakthrough in improving the role of the community in its own health related decision-making. The Ethiopian health sector transformation plan underscores that the community has the capacity and the right to produce its own health, given the right opportunities. This includes transforming the community from passive health service user to active user. Community learning models were described from the experiences of South Africa indicating the importance of interdisciplinary partnership to make effective use of the available meagre resources
The Ebola epidemic has demonstrated that health systems need pre-emergency capacity building to ensure that there is a rapid response when there is a crisis. This requires us to learn lessons from the epidemic to make sure that such disease outbreaks are tackled quickly and do not lead to such huge and tragic losses of resources and lives.
Global health is crucially important in our century and improving it requires concerted multidisciplinary approaches, partnership and networking and building the capacity of young researchers and programme implementers to lead and shape the future.
SEARCH assess the feasibility and effectiveness of using information and communication technology (e-Health) to strengthen equitable health systems and related governance processes through inter-package linking and integration into the existing health management information system in Southern Ethiopia. It initially focuses initially on tuberculosis and maternal and child health – both priority health areas in Ethiopia – through HEWs using e-Health technology within their core duties. Process evaluation and mixed methods approaches are being applied to assess the effectiveness of the e-health data collection system.
We would like to thank Canadian International Health for facilitating participation, sharing and learning during the conference and IDRC funding the project. The SEARCH project is led by Daniel G. Datiko from REACH Ethiopia in collaboration with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and has strategic links with REACHOUT in Ethiopia.
This project is funded by the European Union.