Category Archives: Kenya

Finance, Operations, and HR Leaders Across the I-TECH Network Share Experiences

By Chelsea Elkins

Operations management, including general operations, finance, and human resources (HR) work, are vital to any organization. They are particularly important in the complex landscape of public health programming, where they form the backbone of life-saving services. The International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) network is grateful for the expertise and leadership of finance, HR, and operations professionals across the globe who keep the organization running smoothly and responsibly. We asked several I-TECH Finance, Operations, and HR Managers to share a little bit about what drives their work, as well as their experiences as leaders within the public health field.

Yves-Alain Tanoh

Yves-Alain Tanoh
Finance Manager, I-TECH Côte d’Ivoire

I have been working in the I-TECH Côte d’Ivoire Finance Department for more than 3 years. Prior to I-TECH, I worked on several development projects in Côte d’Ivoire for 14 years.

I am really dedicated to this work.

Since my childhood, I have always had compassion for people in need. I have been affected by the way refugees were struggling for life during the Liberia and Sierra Leone wars. This led me to work with a development non-governmental organization (NGO). Already working in the humanitarian field, I told myself that I could make my modest contribution in a health NGO. I got the opportunity to join I-TECH and have really enjoyed my job since.

Being a leader is not easy. In addition to having a full to-do list, I face many unforeseen circumstances every day. Being competent does not mean knowing everything, but you need to understand each topic well enough to be able to make informed decisions and ask the right questions if information is missing.

I am focusing more and more on building the right team, along with a sustainable human strategy and a culture of innovation. This will be their contribution to I-TECH.

Tannia Toivo

Tannia Toivo
HR Manager, I-TECH Namibia

I joined the HR field because of my love of working with and helping people. Naturally, I was drawn to the public health field and specifically to I-TECH because of its work in addressing the challenge we are facing with HIV in Namibia.

I first joined I-TECH Namibia as an HR Officer for a short period in 2012 and 2013. I was very fortunate to join the team again in May 2016 as an HR Manager.  It has been so rewarding as I interact with professionals and experts from diverse backgrounds and experiences, therefore learning every day.

Generally, the HR field is woman-dominated, and it is great to see the impact that women have in the corporate world. It is a challenging field that is always growing and changing; requiring one to work very hard and to have strong job knowledge in order to succeed. My work as an HR Manager also means that I am involved in Affirmative Action activities, which place an importance in making sure that women are provided equitable employment, training, and job advancement opportunities amongst others. Through my work, I play a part in empowering other women. 

Angela Amondi

Angela Amondi
Operations Lead, I-TECH Kenya

My operations work was initially with general nonprofits, but as I evolved in my field, I began specializing in public health nonprofits.

I have found that being the Operations Lead for the I-TECH Kenya office has been extremely fulfilling. The organization provides professional support and development to help employees learn on the job and enhance their professional skills. A few of my I-TECH career highlights include when I supported the startup for the Kenya office and led the subsequent scale-up when we received additional funding. Within a period of two years, the office grew from having six employees to 17. While leading the operations scale-up, I set up the business operations support and created all operational policies and procedures.

I-TECH practices and emphasizes work/life balance, including having policies that support new mothers and, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including telecommuting as part of the organizational policies. These policies have allowed for peace of mind to focus on the work and achieve the objectives at hand.

Gerald Hiwa

Gerald Hiwa
Finance Manager, I-TECH Malawi

The public health sector needs to be occupied by personnel who have a strong background in finance and can provide strong leadership to oversee financial and grants management. Working in the public health field allows me to answer that call of providing strong leadership so that donors and funders become more confident on how the funds are being utilized and that the intended beneficiaries are benefitting from various health programs.

Analyzing the impact of health interventions compared to the funding investment has been another factor that has enabled me to remain in the public health space for the past 9 years.

My role at I-TECH Malawi as a Finance Manager has been quite educative and impactful. Educative in the sense that I have gained additional knowledge by working with a diverse group of people with different backgrounds. I have also learned to appreciate other people’s perspective regarding work culture. The experience working with I-TECH senior management in Malawi and at headquarters has taught me to focus on the core objective of the various programs and link deliverables to budget monitoring.

My role has been impactful in the sense that I supervise two Finance Officers. Together we have managed to have clean audits with no findings for the past 5 years during annual external audits. Our Finance Department has maintained the first position for three consecutive years during the Global Finance Excellence award, a rating used to gauge policy compliance and accurate financial reporting. My role has had an impact by ensuring that all payments are in compliance with policy and reporting deadlines are met.

Candida Angula

Candida Angula
Senior Finance Manager, I-TECH Namibia

I was introduced to finance work within the public health field by accident, you might say. I started work as an accountant at an IT company, where I mostly did bank reconciliations and invoices and also worked with debtors. After 8 years I felt like I was stagnating and not really growing much as a professional; then the opportunity to join I-TECH Namibia presented itself. I saw the job ad in the paper, decided to go for it, applied, and the rest is history…

I have had so many wonderful experiences, including when I went to work in the South African country office’s Finance Department. I was tasked with assisting them to set up their systems and sharing my expertise and experiences. I liked working in a different set-up, learning the different South African cultures, and interacting with new people.

Another favorite experience is working with people from all over the world, networking and learning from their experiences, as well as sharing mine with them. Back home in the Namibian office, I also like that I get to interact with field staff, which is rare; finance people in general tend to be more office-based. But every now and then I go out into the field and conduct fiscal inventory verifications where I get to learn more about the operations in the field and interact with my fellow colleagues.

A highlight in my work was when I acted as Finance Director for over six months. The experience really shaped my career and confidence and challenged me in ways that made me grow as a professional.

Even though the finance field is generally male-dominated (especially here in Namibia), I’m not conscious of being a woman in my position as a Senior Finance Manager. Instead, I see my position as both an opportunity and a challenge; an opportunity to inspire more young women to join the field, and a challenge to demonstrate that women can excel in any field.

 

I-TECH Awarded Funding For COVID-19 Response and Activities

Illustration of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Image credit: CDC

Many of the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) country offices have received supplemental funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or pivoted portions of current CDC funding to implement and support activities related to the global COVID-19 response, such as contact tracing efforts, provider education, vaccine preparedness, and infection prevention and control (IPC).

To date, I-TECH has received over $500,000 of new funding for IPC of COVID-19 in Kenya and Malawi, while several other offices have submitted proposals for additional funding.

CDC has also redirected $83,000 of I-TECH Tanzania’s funding to support training on COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing teams specifically for field epidemiology and training program graduates and community health care workers.

“The funding and support that we have received from CDC will allow us to apply our decades of implementation knowledge and expertise from combating the HIV epidemic to the current global COVID-19 response,” says Ivonne Butler, MPH, Associate Center Director for I-TECH. “We look forward to working with other implementing partners and local ministries of health to provide comprehensive training, technical assistance, and learn from one another to effectively respond to this evolving pandemic.”

In addition to new funding and funding shifts, I-TECH has been invited by local governments and ministries of health to collaborate in their COVID-19 responses. So far, I-TECH has aided in the creation of standard operating procedures, contributed to public pandemic preparedness materials, and supported hospitals with COVID-19 IPC. Leveraging existing processes and programs — such as warm lines and distance learning platforms — has allowed I-TECH to rapidly respond to the emerging needs of health care workers and providers.

The newly established independent local Zimbabwe office, Zim-TTECH (Zimbabwe Technical Assistance, Training, and Education Center for Health), also received $579,000 for vaccine preparedness and disease prevention for the rapid scale-up and implementation of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine (when available) as well as IPC triaging at 250 sites throughout the country.

Ensuring Continuity of HIV Care

I-TECH’s programs are now faced with the difficult task of ensuring the continuity of HIV care and treatment for people living with HIV (PLHIV) during the pandemic. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries are facing disruptions in antiretroviral therapy (ART) medication supply, an inability for PLHIV to pick up ART medication at pharmacies or hospitals, and a diverted focus from HIV testing due to lack of personal protective equipment and safety concerns.

“Our programs are committed to continuing to provide quality HIV care and treatment while maintaining a safe environment for those for staff and patients,” says Butler. “Our teams and programs have had to adapt and bring innovative delivery of uninterrupted HIV care and treatment services to people living with HIV. They have done an outstanding job in their rapid responses during this unprecedented time.”

Some examples of the innovative way teams are delivering HIV care during the COVID-19 pandemic is through text messaging as a way to reach PLHIV, coordinating community ART refill groups, educating and training providers via distance learning platforms, and using warm lines and WhatsApp to support providers.

I-TECH’s Samantha Dolan Wins Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Award

Samantha Dolan, a Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor with the Kenya team at the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH), has received the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations award. Along with I-TECH Kenya’s Ian Njeru and I-TECH PI Peter Rabinowitz, professor in the Department of Global Health, Dolan has been awarded $100,000 to conduct a project over the next 18 months to improve digital data collection and monitoring of childhood immunizations at Kenyan health facilities.

Read more about Dolan and her project on the UW Department of Global Health website–and congratulations from the I-TECH family!

Leadership and Management in Health Online Course Reaches Thousands Worldwide

Treats served at an end-of-course celebration in Kenya, 2016

Training on leadership and management is a critical component of the University of Washington (UW) International Training and Education Center for Health’s (I-TECH’s) health systems strengthening efforts. To that end, I-TECH has worked closely with the UW Department of Global Health E-Learning Program (eDGH) since 2012 to offer a heavily subscribed online course on leadership and management to health care workers in low- and middle-income countries.

Designed and taught by I-TECH Executive Director and UW Professor of Global Health Ann Downer, Leadership and Management in Health (LMIH) is a 12-week course focusing on the practical leadership and management skills required for working in complex global health environments. Weekly modules include content on team building, accountability, supervision and delegation, conflict management, financial management, use of data for decision-making, and effective communication.

“I want to express my gratitude for giving me the opportunity to do the UW course on Leadership Management in Health. …I find myself going back to these documents again and again to understand and imbibe what is given. I feel that the simple narrative of the course material has made all the difference.”

–2016 course participant from India

Participants from Tunisia, 2015

The course consists of recorded lectures, required readings, a weekly online discussion forum, quizzes, self-reflection assignments, and a final verbal presentation. It is targeted to practicing health care professionals and public health specialists who already have some experience managing people. In most cases, LMIH participants gather in weekly site-specific, in-person discussion groups led by a volunteer facilitator to discuss the material and apply it to their particular linguistic, cultural, social, and political environment.

“We just finished our site discussion this afternoon and the level of contribution and application to our various office settings was wonderful. …I have told my Chief Executive … about the course and he is thinking of asking all Management Staff to do it compulsorily in the next episode.”

–2017 course site facilitator

Due to high enrollment, the course is now offered twice a year, with a completion averaging 84%. Approximately 4,500 individuals are enrolled in the latest offering of the course, representing a nine-fold increase in five years. More than 10,000 health workers in 65 countries have graduated from LMIH since 2012.

Participants from Myanmar, 2017

According to a survey conducted by eDGH, more than half of graduates from the spring 2016 cohort now mentor colleagues on leadership and management-related job tasks. In addition, 67% said they were given new responsibilities or projects as a result of course completion, and 74% reported that they had maintained contact with other students from their sites.

“We consistently hear that how empowering the course is,” said Anya Nartker, E-Learning Project Manager with eDGH. “The course uses a blended model, where participants are required to meet with their local site each week to apply what they are learning in the course, and share problems that they support each other in solving.”

 

I like the idea of all students teaming together and working together despite their backgrounds and level of education. There were many who were highly educated and some who were moderately [educated], and we all understood and accommodated each other.

–2016 course participant from Kenya

Course graduates have requested a deeper exploration of certain topics introduced in LMIH. As a result, a certificate series of three online courses is being developed that will include LMIH; a new course titled Global Project Management; and a third online course, Fundamentals of Implementation Science.

The Global Project Management online course will be offered as a stand-alone course from July-September 2018, co-taught by Dr. Downer; I-TECH Deputy Director, Chichi Butler; and I-TECH Senior Program Manager, Harnik Gulati. The certificate will be offered in 2018.

BID Initiative Partners with I-TECH to Track Vaccinations with Better Data

The following post was written in partnership with PATH‘s Better Immunization Data (BID) Initiative.

Patients at Usa River Health Center Tanzania. Photo courtesy of the BID Initiative.

The digital health landscape is rife with disconnected systems that make it challenging to aggregate information and improve the health of populations. After years of disjointed experiences, multiple organizations and governments have found that multi-platform, standardized, and connected information systems are critical to allow health care providers and decision makers access to timely and accurate information.

In this spirit, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) joined forces with PATH’s BID Initiative to prevent disease by developing a platform to better trace vaccinations in low-resource settings. As part of its Global Health Security award, I-TECH is localizing the BID Initiative’s Zambia Electronic Immunisation Registry (ZEIR), an app powered by OpenSRP which is an open source mobile health platform, for use in Siaya County, Kenya.

I-TECH reached out to the BID Initiative last summer to hear more about BID’s lessons learned. The two teams began collaborating in earnest last December, leveraging the BID Initiative’s large scope in Zambia and Tanzania with I-TECH’s expertise in working with the OpenMRS platform.

Parallel projects with common goals

Reuben Mwanza (right) of PATH enters vaccination data into a tablet computer during a vaccination service at the Mahatma Gandhi Clinic in Livingstone, Zambia on October 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of the BID Initiative.

In Kenya, I-TECH has been tasked with building an electronic platform to capture immunizations when they happen. The aim of the project—conducted in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, the CDC Global Health Protection Division, and the CDC Global Immunization Division—is to improve immunization coverage. This is done by tracking and monitoring who is due for which vaccine, starting with population-level coverage within a single county, thus decreasing the chance of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Similarly, the BID Initiative has been working with the Ministry of Health and nurses in Tanzania and Zambia to develop an electronic immunization registry, among other data use tools, to ensure data becomes more accessible and useful to health workers. This, in turn, can help with decision making to prevent vaccine stockouts and enable follow-up with patients who have not returned for needed vaccines. BID’s learnings provided an opportune starting point for I-TECH’s work.

“ZEIR provides all of the workflows we need,” says Craig Appl, I-TECH Senior Technical Advisor for Health Informatics. “It already considers how users will interact with the application. It collects immunization data in a user-friendly manner, allowing health care workers to more accurately administer and record childhood immunizations and to more easily follow-up with children defaulting on their immunization schedule.”

Improvements through open source collaboration

I-TECH and BID have turned to Ona, a social enterprise based in Nairobi, Kenya, committed to fostering change by building information systems infrastructure. BID began working with Ona in January 2017 to adapt the OpenSRP system to Zambia’s national immunization program. This open source development process has been critical to the success of both teams and represents the collective knowledge of a community of developers known as the THRIVE Consortium.

“We simply couldn’t do this if OpenSRP and ZEIR software development was closed source,” says Appl. “The documentation, source code, and community wiki are all open for collaboration. Our team is able to actively track the improvements across the community, receive value where others have built features, and contribute where our projects align. Through open collaboration, we have many more individuals and teams working to improve health outcomes where we work.”

Laurie Werner, BID’s Global Director, agrees, pointing out that each new tool and iteration of the app is more adaptable and affordable than the last. “I-TECH is able to see solutions and propose solutions,” says Werner, “that’s the beauty of open source software.”

Matt Berg, CEO of Ona, views the OpenSRP app created for both projects as a customizable springboard that could potentially accommodate additional modules for antenatal care, malaria data, and maternal and child health.

“From our prior work with BID, we had this great starting point that another country or group could take and adapt and get up and running quickly,” says Berg.

Adaptability equals cost efficiency

Cost is a major driver for any implementation. Until now, it has been more cost efficient to build specific functionality on top of popular generalized information systems and tools, which decreases adaptability. Initial investments in the BID and I-TECH projects have allowed for both flexibility and specificity.

“We tend to focus too much [in the digital health field] on localization, and not on great design,” says Berg. “I think our success in Zambia and Kenya validates the importance of good design…and shows the potential of replicating in places for a fraction of what was originally invested.”

This collaborative environment and focus on adaptable design increases cost efficiency and allows the BID Initiative to fulfill the intention for its solutions to be used in multiple contexts.

“This is the core of the BID Initiative’s theory,” says Werner. “Effective electronic immunization registries have to be adapted to a country’s context and specific needs. Each time you do that, it becomes less and less of a financial investment for future countries.”

This blog post was supported by the Cooperative Agreement Number, U2GH001721, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.

Kenya Partnerships

I-TECH Kenya has collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)United States Agency for International Development (USAID)Family AIDS Care and Education Services (FACES), a collaboration between the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI); and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)the Ministry of Health; the National AIDS/STD Control Programme (NASCOP) and its Division of Health Informatics, Monitoring and Evaluation; and the Regional AIDS Training Network (RATN); National Public Health Laboratory Services (NPHLS); Palladium; PATH; Better Immunization Data Initiative Learning Network.

Global Health Security Agenda in Kenya

I-TECH Kenya’s Global Health Security (GHSA) funded programs aim to advance the GHSA  through strengthening information systems and reporting.

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