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Could OER Improve Community Health Worker Training?

By Wayan Vota on June 24, 2015


Billions of dollars are being invested in finding solutions to Africa’s most pressing health needs. In particular there is a focus on the role of frontline health workers (FLHWs) such as nurses, midwives, and community health workers (CHWs) in providing greater access to health services—preventive and curative—to help decrease preventable maternal and child deaths.

Evidence suggests that where CHWs are effectively trained and deployed, there is a reduction in maternal and child mortality, a reduction in the spread of HIV, TB, and malaria, and better management of chronic diseases. The evidence, however, highlights significant health care training deficiencies. Even when training is provided, it is routinely ineffectual. Refresher training, moreover, is infrequent or simply never happens.

The consequences of this severe under-training of FLHWs contribute to alarming yet avoidable medical situations. Training these health workers in a way that is appropriate, successful, and cost-effective promises to address this and a host of other health challenges in Africa and beyond.


The Global Health Content for Local Solutions Consultations Synopsis outlines a series of workshops convened by mPowering Frontline Health Workers, Kurante, and other partners to consider whether the global health community is following the most beneficial route to provide relevant and effective health training for FLHWs.

Focusing in particular on CHWs, who work directly in the communities they serve, the forums explored the potential for a set of freely available, high-quality Open Educational Resources (OER) that could be adapted for use by Ministries of Health, training institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and others across multiple CHW projects in multiple countries to begin to address the skills gap.

Between December 2013 and April 2014, over 185 people from more than 100 organizations came together to discuss critical questions about the learning and information needs of CHWs and consider these in the context of the commitment at the 2013 Recife conference in Brazil to move toward CHW harmonization.

The workshops were facilitated by Wayan Vota, hosted by mPowering partners, and took place in five cities: Washington, D.C., London, Nairobi, Johannesburg, and Geneva. The aim was to bring together a wide range of players—policymakers, health professionals, academics, funders, implementers, and others—to draw on their expertise and experience to think with purpose to move toward solutions for addressing the skills gaps of CHWs.

The intention of the Global Health Content for Local Solutions Consultations Synopsis is to share the ideas and recommendations emerging from the CHW discussion events to help to inform and shape the work of other CHW initiatives examining how to develop and strengthen their training programs at scale.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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