Category Archives: Nursing/HCW Cadres

I-TECH Celebrates 20 Years

In 2008, I-TECH Mozambique celebrated I-TECH’s sixth birthday. “Sempre crescendo” = “always growing.”

On April 1, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) celebrates 20 years since its founding. It has since grown into the largest center in the Department of Global Health (DGH) and one of the largest centers at the University of Washington (UW).

“We are proud to mark this milestone,” says Dr. Pamela Collins, Executive Director of I-TECH, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Professor of Global Health at UW. “For 20 years I-TECH has helped to save lives through its support of public health systems in the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Over the years, our scope has broadened, but responsive partnerships with ministries of health, collaborating NGOs, and our donors have been central to the work.”

I-TECH comprises a global network, operating in 17 countries, that fosters healthier communities around the world through equitable partnerships in research, training, and public health practice. Its work is rooted in health care training and draws on a culturally rich community that includes UW faculty, global partners, and U.S. and global staff and students. This community of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions encourages learning from one another while working toward high quality, compassionate, and equitable health care.

“COVID-19 has reminded me, and many of us, about the critical and life-saving role of health care workers, a group that often lacks proper support,” says Ivonne X. “Chichi” Butler, Associate Director at I-TECH. “At the same time, collectively, we have come to understand the urgent need for stronger and better prepared health systems to respond to the COVID crisis.

“At I-TECH, these concerns have been at the heart of our work for the past 20 years,” she continues. “We have invested–and continue to invest–in health workers and in the systems in which they work. I am proud to be part of a center that has transformed the delivery of HIV care and treatment in so many countries and that truly puts individuals and communities at the forefront to meet their particular needs.”

I-TECH began in 2002 with its first award, the International AIDS Education & Training Center (IAETC) grant. The IAETC was administered by the Center for Health Education and Research (CHER), within the Department of Health Services (now the Department of Health Systems and Population Health). This was one of CHER’s first forays into what would become known as “global health.”

“The IAETC award was the first of its kind at UW,” says Shelly Tonge-Seymour, Associate Director of I-TECH, who has been with the center for 20 years, “the first to translate lessons from the U.S. to improve the training of health care workers and delivery of care globally.”

With the advent of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003, I-TECH’s portfolio expanded rapidly, reflecting the evolution of PEPFAR from “emergency” to a longer-term investment in health systems strengthening. I-TECH became an official UW center in 2008, a year after joining UW’s new Department of Global Health at the invitation of Dr. King Holmes, then-chair of DGH. “It became clear that we had grown so large that we needed our own administrative core,” says Tonge-Seymour.

Through its work with PEPFAR, I-TECH’s efforts have contributed meaningfully to the huge advancements in HIV prevention, care, and treatment seen across the globe, with a particular emphasis on groups that have been marginalized or stigmatized.

“One of the most powerful changes in the past 20 years in the Caribbean Region has been in the attitude toward key population groups,” says Natalie Irving-Mattocks, Executive Director of the Caribbean Training and Education Center for Health (C-TECH), one of I-TECH’s independent partner organizations. “Through the Key Populations Preceptorship Program, I-TECH has contributed significantly to better health in the Caribbean region by training healthcare workers to provide nonjudgmental, high-quality, comprehensive HIV care to men who have sex with men, transgender women, and sex workers.”

C-TECH is just one of the independent organizations I-TECH has helped to establish worldwide. Once operating as I-TECH Zimbabwe, the team at the Zimbabwe Technical Assistance, Training, and Education Center for Health (Zim-TTECH) has a long history of partnering with local organizations and community-based health care workers to increase access to care.

“I’ve been involved with I-TECH for its entire 20 years, and the most impactful thing for me has been the contribution I-TECH has made in Zimbabwe to supporting the development of lay cadres into primary counselors,” says Abisha Jonga, Senior Program Manager at Zim-TTECH. “This program created a career path for so many, made HIV counseling services more accessible to the general population, demystified HIV testing, and shaped the individuals’ lives.”

Dr. Batsi Makunike, Executive Director of Zim-TTECH, agrees that fostering local connection has been the key to success. “I am particularly proud of the fact that I-TECH has succeeded in nurturing local organizations,” says Dr. Makunike. “Providing full support without competition–that is huge. Without I-TECH, there would be no Zim-TTECH.”

Malawi has seen its health care landscape change dramatically in the past 20 years and is now close to meeting the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets for the elimination of HIV. Since 2008, I-TECH has partnered with the Malawi Ministry of Health’s Department for HIV and AIDS and helped to generate pioneering policy initiatives such as the 2011 adoption of Option B+ for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. Option B+ provides universal, lifelong ART for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Based on Malawi’s documented success, the World Health Organization formally adopted Option B+ as a global policy in 2013.

“We truly believe that I-TECH has significantly contributed to the prevention of thousands of infant infections and AIDS deaths among children, adolescents, and mums and dads in Malawi,” says Dr. Andreas Jahn, Senior Technical Advisor with I-TECH Malawi. “We have walked this journey with a whole generation of Malawian HIV program colleagues, and we have learned a tremendous amount from each other.”

I-TECH’s funding has grown from $500,000 for its initial award in 2002 to a cumulative total of more than $1 billion. The center currently has 26 awards, harnessing UW technical expertise in multiple technical areas from mental health to electronic health information systems to global health security and emerging health threats.

As I-TECH has adapted to changing needs, at its core remains a commitment to creating equitable partnerships and facilitating knowledge sharing throughout the I-TECH network, which includes I-TECH’s own country offices, independent partner organizations fledged from I-TECH, ministries of health, academic institutions, community groups, and others.

“When I reflect on the success of I-TECH in reaching the age of 20, two observations keep coming up for me,” says Dr. Ann Downer, co-founder and former Executive Director of I-TECH and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Global Health. “One is about the power of unity. I believe that the ability of a diverse group of individuals and teams to hold a common vision and set of values generates resilience. This unity allows I-TECH to continue operating after 20 years with integrity and grace across enormous geographic, linguistic, and cultural borders and despite regular economic and social challenges.

“The other observation is about the importance of encouraging leadership from all parts of an organization,” she continues. “This requires us to embrace the value of humility and results in our ability to listen and learn. Both are critical actions for successful work anywhere but are essential for working ethically on a global stage.”

The I-TECH story continues to unfold. From a modest grant with limited staff to a vital, resilient, and animated worldwide network of more than 1,600 dedicated personnel, I-TECH will continue to work alongside its global partners in its commitment to stronger health systems and safer, healthier communities.

“There’s so much to celebrate and a wealth of lessons to light the way forward,” says Dr. Collins. “In this era of pandemic, war, and fractured communities, our vision for health is needed now more than ever.”

I-TECH Launches In-Service Skills Development Program for Health Workers in South Africa

In South Africa, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) has begun facilitating an in-service skills development training program for community health workers (CHWs) and their supervisors in their roles on the Ward-Based Primary Health Care Outreach Team (WBPHCOT). To maximize the impact of this training, I-TECH is working with two PEPFAR District Support Partners across seven of South Africa’s nine provinces to reach an estimated 20,000 CHWS, which is approximately half of the country’s CHW workforce. Training began in February 2019 and will continue through September 2019.

The WBPHCOT In-Service Skills Development Package aims to strengthen the capacity of CHWs to provide high-quality health services in the community. The program emphasizes development of core, cross-cutting service delivery skills, including communication, screening, psychosocial support, ethics, and confidentiality that enable CHWs and their supervisors, known as Outreach Team Leaders (OTLs), to effectively carry out their work.

During training, CHWs and OTLs build their skills in both classroom and on-the-job settings using group discussions, case presentations, scenario-based role play, small group activities, and interactive presentations. Priority health conditions and related clinical topics are included, and the realistic scenarios cover all components of the CHW scope of work.

I-TECH SA CHW Training App

Snapshot of the app used to capture training data.

Leveraging Technology to Improve Training
All training data collected for the skills development program will be captured via a mobile application and stored using the CommCare platform, a mobile data collection system developed by Dimagi. The app allows I-TECH access to real-time data, which can inform targeted measures to ensure that all CHWs are receiving high-quality trainings.

To tailor the program to the needs and realities of the field, I-TECH has implemented a blended tablet and paper-based data collection approach.

“There is such a large number of CHW trainees in the field that using this blended approach allows the OTLs to dedicate their time to training CHWs rather than focus on paperwork,” says Ilyse Jacobson, I-TECH South Africa Technical Director of Programs. “This flexibility allows for more in-depth and efficient training.”

Dashboard used by stakeholders and implementing partners to track the progress of the program.

Due to its role as the sole repository for all training-related data, the CommCare database will also generate reports linked to an interactive stakeholder dashboard.

“The dashboard not only brings I-TECH’s data visualization and dissemination approach into the 21st century,” says Jacobson, “it allows project stakeholders access to the data that helps with decision-making both in and outside of this program.”

The design of the Stakeholder Dashboard allows donors, implementing partners, and the National Department of Health to track current progress against training targets on a weekly basis.

Using Data to Improve Health Service Delivery in Malawi

The Kuunika Project: Data for Action was a four-year program implemented by a consortium of organizations, including the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH), that began in 2016 to improve healthcare service delivery through the effective use of data. Consortium activities aimed to improve data systems, data use, and data governance in five districts throughout Malawi. I-TECH’s main focus was to build the capacity of healthcare workers (HCWs) to access, manage and use health data in high-burden HIV/AIDS facilities and communities.

I-TECH conducted an HCW training needs assessment with support from the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2017. Using the assessment data, I-TECH collaborated with MOH, district health teams, local university representatives, and subject matter experts to design and develop a training curriculum that was piloted in 2018.

In January 2019, I-TECH rolled out a national training comprised of seven-day, in-person workshops and complementary eLearning modules with the goal of establishing a culture of data use, a strong base of high-quality data, and improve the availability of high-quality information to decision makers with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes. The eLearning program, Building Effective Health Information Systems, is comprised of seven modules that introduce frontline healthcare workers and managers to health information systems. The modules include:

  1. Introduction to Health Information Systems
  2. Health Information Systems: Data Management Concepts
  3. Using EMR Data for Decision Making
  4. Improving and Maintaining the Quality of EMR System Data
  5. Logic Models and System Classification
  6. Overview of System Architecture
  7. Introduction to Interoperability at the Facility Level.

An average of 150 HCWs per district were trained for an overall total of more than 800 HCWs trained across the country.

In May 2019, I-TECH launched a mentorship program designed to bridge the gap between training and practice, and to help participants apply their newly gained knowledge on the job. By the end of Phase 1, the I-TECH team had oriented over 100 district mentors to the mentorship program and tools. I-TECH’s role in the consortium concluded in August 2019 when Phase 1 of the Kuunika Project ended.

Nursing Efficiency and Task-Sharing in Tanzania

I-TECH Tanzania led the development of the task-sharing policy guidelines for Health Sector Services approved in 2016 as well as the policy’s operational plan. While task-sharing is a widely known HIV service delivery efficiency strategy, still there is continues gaps between national strategies and actual implementation at the site-level [1,2].

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Strengthening Regional Training Centres in South Africa

I-TECH is supporting Regional Training Centres (RTCs) across provinces to increase their capacity to coordinate in-service trainings, with an emphasis on reaching the 90-90-90 targets.

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Workforce Development in Haiti

It is critical that health care providers receive the necessary training to empower them to improve patient outcomes CHARESS supports both pre-service and in-service training efforts in Haiti. In particular, CHARESS is a key partner of MSPP in maintaining its national clinical guidelines.  Continue reading »