ABUJA — Over the past 20 years, the world has not only witnessed global poverty rates plummet greatly, but has also experienced improved adult training especially in the medical field. This was done through enhanced training programs that found new ways to stimulate and impact the participants who are willing to learn. It is vital that global communities provide significant resources in training their healthcare workforce because effective immunization training will save lives. Among the most influential advocates for innovative immunization training are Bill and Melinda Gates.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted the Teach to Reach: Innovative Methods for Immunization Training Summit in November 2015. This summit brought “together learning specialists, development partners, and immunization professionals to share best practices, explore advances in learning science and instructional design, and engage in a conversation about how best to use new strategies and tools to improve immunization training.”
Dr. Bassey Okposen, a Nigerian Doctor that attended the Summit, has been the Head of Routine Immunization and Essential Services at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) since 2013. Additionally, he is part of the Routine Immunization Working Group (RIWG) that is comprised of Nigerian partners who deal with immunization. Teach to Reach has enabled Dr. Bassey and his colleagues to revamp the country’s current training plan while revitalizing the National Immunization Training Task Team.
Dr. Bassey and the National Immunization Training Task Team allocated adequate time to plan training methods, which were coupled with innovative quality training ideas. These ideas include hiring trainers that are familiar with their methods, using a standardized manual as reference after every training session, providing the staff with extra support and requiring their supervisors to be actively involved in the training sessions. This will ensure that staff members are better equipped to grasp information at a greater clip. It will also allow them to provide effective support while on the job.
Two of Dr. Bassey’s colleagues, Abiola Ojumu and Abisola Olaniyan are a part of the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and have also worked with the Lagos State Government. Ojumu and Olaniyan primarily work on strengthening their healthcare staff-management services. They have developed new ways to make immunization training more stimulating and practical with limited funding. While working with the Lagos State Government, they were able to “improve the delivery of a Vaccine Management and Immunization Basics training [session]for 223 private sector healthcare workers. They achieved this by analyzing the current training methods in place and added more practical techniques.
One way they were able to accomplish this is through the use of life-size dolls for injection practice. The additional resources they required only called for $655 USD, which is less than 2 percent of the training budget. They were able to recruit five facilitators per every 50 participants, and introduced healthcare workers to new training tables for more hands-on practice. Some of the hands-on experience involved putting together a safety box and shake test execution. Shake testes are used to determine if freeze-sensitive vaccines were ever frozen, which destroys their potency. Staff that could not participate were provided with a printed copy of essential take-away points from the sessions. This made it easier for the participants to explain what they had just learned, and simultaneously retain more information.
One of the main goals of Immunization is the prevention of infectious diseases, which makes this program even more important due to their rollercoaster track record with immunization. The Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) in Nigera was established in 1978. The program sought to provide children under the age of two with routine immunization. Although the project had a promising start, it wasn’t until 1990 that the optimum level of immunization was reached. In Nigeria, 81 percent of children were receiving immunization coverage at this point, but by 2003 that percentage had fallen to just 12.9 percent. This statistic was one of the lowest in the world and placed Nigeria in the penultimate position when compared to other African countries.
Thanks to the Teach to Reach Summit, immunization training in Nigeria has greatly improved and aided a country in dire need. Thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the medical doctors and their dedicated colleagues who had participated in this cause, Nigeria is starting to make its immunization drawbacks a thing of the past.
– Terry J. Halloran