The Open University and the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) Directorate in Kenya are delighted to announce that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together for the development and implementation of health education and training for mid-level and community health workers in Africa.
The Open University, through its Health Education and Training (HEAT) programme, has been working closely with AMREF in Ethiopia since April 2009. This collaboration is central to the HEAT team’s work with the Federal Ministry of Health to help upgrade the country’s over 30,000 community health workers’ knowledge and skills. Using the OU’s established and successful distance-learning mode HEAT supports. African health experts to develop learning materials for rural health workers to use while remaining in their communities delivering crucial health services.
HEAT’s work, which is primarily funded by UNICEF, is central to Ethiopia’s response to the Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015. The distance-learning materials are studied alongside practical skills training, helping health workers to provide better care for mothers and children and to improve their knowledge and skills in antenatal care, safe delivery and postnatal care. The programme also equips health workers with the skills to treat common childhood illnesses including pneumonia and diarrhoea; to counsel mothers on the importance of nutrition for growth and development; and to prevent and treat a range of non-communicable and communicable diseases.
Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said: “This agreement will build on our successful collaboration with AMREF in Ethiopia and play a pivotal role in enabling the HEAT programme to achieve its aspiration of reaching hundreds of thousands of health workers delivering crucial health services to millions of people. The agreement and collaboration between our two organisations will help to ensure that effective health interventions are accessible in remotest areas in sub-Saharan Africa”.
AMREF is committed to improving health and health care in Africa. Working across 33 African countries, AMREF aims to ensure that every African can enjoy the right to good health by helping to create vibrant networks of informed and empowered communities and health care providers working together in strong health systems. Specifically, AMREF seeks to up-skill and scale up human resources for health (HRH), including community health workers, nurses and clinical officers, to address the HRH crisis across the African continent. Since 2005, AMREF’s national eLearning programme in Kenya has enrolled over 7,000 nurses and graduated over 2,500 nurses from enrolled to registered status. AMREF is now implementing an eLearning upgrading course for midwives in Uganda and nurses in Tanzania, as well as testing the effectiveness of mobile learning to upgrade the skills and knowledge of health workers in Kenya and Senegal with support from the European Space Agency.
Peter Ngatia, Director of Capacity Building, stated: “AMREF is extremely excited to announce our new partnership with the Open University. We believe that this collaboration will take AMREF’s innovative e-learning, m-learning and broader distance learning interventions further afield in Africa and to other low income countries. In doing so, we hope to dramatically assist in the global effort to scale-up training of Human Resources for Health (HRH) to ensure countries have the numbers and competencies required for quality health delivery and attainment of the Millennium Development Goals”.
Working closely together, the OU and AMREF will build on their existing expertise to support the ongoing development and delivery of quality distance learning, e-learning and on-site training. Through the OU-AMREF Programme Advisory Council, they will oversee development, funding and implementation of projects and develop joint networks of co-operation and partnerships with other organizations who share the OU’s and AMREF’s goals.
The above photograph was taken during a recent visit to the Shera Health Post. Pictured from left to right are: Almaz Alemu, one of the two Health Extension Workers; Tedla Mulatu, Training Coordinator, AMREF; Edith Prak, OU Director of Development; Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of the OU; Dr Joao Soares, Country Director, AMREF Ethiopia; Demissew Bizuwerk, Communication Officer, AMREF; Atsbeha Asrat, Project Officer, AMREF; Damtew Tilahun, Mojo Health Office Representative.