Turning to technology to fix health training

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020 00:00 |
Diana Mukami, Digital Learning Director, Amref Health Africa, displays a dummy display of Jibu app. Photo/COURTESY

Ann Nyathira

The future of medical devices is beginning to heavily rely on integration of technological advances including apps, robotics and 3D printing.

Today, technology has become a crucial partner to those working in the health sector.

To strengthen health workforce training, Amref Health Africa in collaboration with the Elsevier and Dioraphte Foundations have launched Jibu, a mobile learning app expected to facilitate and advance digital training of healthcare workers in Africa.

Jibu, Kiswahili for answer, allows for self-paced, self-administered learning and is aimed at improving skills and knowledge of health workers in sub-Saharan Africa.

It targets both pre-service and in-service health workers, including nurses, midwives, clinical officers and nutritionists. It allows learners to enroll and access learning materials.

Huge shortage

Diana Mukami, Amref Health Africa’s Digital Learning Director says the app will equip frontline health workers with skills to deliver quality healthcare services.

She says the app will address the need to train health workers to effectively address critical shortages of human resources for health and ultimately accelerate progress to make Universal Health Coverage (UHC) a reality in the country and continent.

“We know access to training and education for health workers can sometimes be a challenge, but today we have a technology that increases access to learning materials and courses.

So, basically Jibu will leverage existing technology such as mobile phones and other devices to allow health workers to access learning and information as and when they need it.

Not forgetting that it works both online and offline since as much as we have Internet connection, it is not always available, especially in the rural areas,” she explains.

A user needs to download and install the app on their devices before creating a profile and enrolling for a course. They can then download course materials for their studies.

Mukami says some health workers do not have access to devices that can facilitate access to rich media content; a combination of videos, images and simulations.

Others cannot afford Internet costs as they are not enough for such luxuries. Having a solution that works across all types of devices and accessible for all is a step in the right direction.

To achieve the health workforce requirements of the Sustainable Development Goals and UHC targets, over 18 million additional health workers are needed by 2030.

However, the World Health Organisation estimates a projected shortfall of health workers mostly in low and lower-middle-income countries. 

Jibu is a confirmation of how powerful digital innovations are in helping advance development of health solutions, particularly in low resource settings that are often at the forefront of pressing humanitarian and health crises.

“Resolving the shortage of health workers requires a multi-faceted approach including concerted efforts through public-private partnerships.

Digital learning solutions, such as Jibu, increase access to tailored courses for health workers, in comparison with traditional approaches such as face-to-face.

The Jibu app allows health workers to receive quality training with minimal disruptions to their work,” says Mukami.

Denting the gap

“Through this app, health workers will enrich their knowledge and skills on different areas including Non-Communicable Diseases (such Asthma and Diabetes), Family Planning, Neonatal Health Care, Reproductive Health Courses, Leadership Management, and Governance, Management of Diarrhoea and Pneumonia in Children under five years among others,” she adds.

Mukami notes although 2,600 health workers have enrolled for the mobile learning in Kenya, they are looking to scale it up to other countries on the continent.

“Our ambition as an organisation is to put a dent on the gap we have as health workers in sub-Saharan Africa.

We are working towards reaching 1million health workers by 2030 and we believe that digital learning can help us to do this,” she said.

Whilst there is some level of Internet accesses both in the urban and rural areas, Jibu main challenge is access to fast Internet specifically in rural areas.

“Balancing between having rich media content comprising of video, images, and simulation and plain text is our major challenge.

Rich content holds a lot of information compared to plain texts and not everyone can afford fast Internet, there is also the issue of the cost of accessing the Internet,” she said.

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