The initiative, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy (FMP) of the Université d’État d’Haïti, aims to contribute to the strengthening of human resources in health, increasing the number of qualified clinicians in Haiti. The year-long training comprises theoretical and practical components; this cohort’s practica took place at seven different university hospitals and other health institutions around the country.
“Haiti faces a serious problem of shortage of human resources in health, due in part to the ‘brain drain’ abroad,” says Dr. Jean Guy Honoré, Executive Director of CHARESS. “In some health facilities located in remote parts of the country, there are no physicians, and patients are seen by nurses who sometimes have limited knowledge of the management of infectious pathologies. This training aims to improve the skills of these nurses.”
This aptly fits the vision of CHARESS, which is “to be the reference center, in terms of training, research and technical assistance, allowing populations to receive quality care, with humanity,” says Dr. Honoré. Two other cohorts of nurses have already started this specialized training.
Dr. Bernard Pierre, Dean of the FMP, expressed a wish to strengthen the collaboration between the FMP and CHARESS to extend similar specialized training to doctors — in particular, general practitioners.
I-TECH and its partners have been working in Haiti since 2006, delivering training, clinical mentoring, health information systems, and other health systems strengthening interventions.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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:
Introduction to Health Information Systems
Health Information Systems: Data Management Concepts
Using EMR Data for Decision Making
Improving and Maintaining the Quality of EMR System Data
Logic Models and System Classification
Overview of System Architecture
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.
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].
Recent public health care reform in Ukraine has called for the growing role of primary health care, task shifting, and decentralization of HIV services while providing care and treatment for people living with HIV (PLWH). In June 2018, the International Training and Education Center for health (I-TECH) Ukraine conducted two back-to-back, five-day in-service training programs on HIV testing services for two cohorts of participants from twelve regions across Ukraine.
The concept and design of these unique pilot training programs were influenced by the recent reform to actively involve general practice/primary care nurses into the process of achieving UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets in Ukraine.
A group of 10 national HIV and health care reform experts, I-TECH’s international consultant-nurse practitioner, and the I-TECH Ukraine training development team carefully designed the learning objectives and content of the training program with consideration of the specifics of the national HIV epidemic, participant backgrounds, as well as anticipated task shifting. Together, these experts synthesized and presented international and national clinical and nursing best practices in the area of serving PLWH.
Training participants included nurses from primary care facilities, specialized HIV clinics, as well as faculty of seven local nursing colleges, including I-TECH Ukraine’s national partners – Ternopil State Medical University and the Nursing College of Poltava Ukrainian Medical and Dental Academy.
The training programs outlined roles for general practice/primary care nurses in achieving UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, taught HIV basics, helped develop skills for HIV testing services with rapid HIV test kits, and coached participants on conducting counseling for PLWH using a non-discriminatory, patient-centered approach.
Facilitators used interactive training tools and approaches during the program to fully engage participants and strengthen the capacity of the nursing college’s faculty to teach up-to-date HIV content in an appealing and efficient way.
One of the central elements of the program was to educate the participating nurses about the challenges surrounding HIV-related stigma and discrimination with a major goal to overcome it in the nursing community and encourage respectful delivery of services for PLWH.
“[I-TECH Ukraine and its partners are] doing such a[n] important thing,” says Valentyna Borysova, lecturer of Zaporizhzhia Nursing College. “Educating nurses on HIV has been so much underestimated and under-invested in Ukraine.”
In addition to feeling as though this training addressed a critical gap in education, participants also provided positive feedback about the content and facilitation of the training, especially the parts of the training that were facilitated by the international and national peer nurses.
“The knowledge on testing and post-exposure prophylaxis are badly needed at our clinic,” says Liudmyla Samolelis, Senior Nurse of the Psychiatric Clinic in Poltava, Head of Poltava Oblast Nurse Association. “I plan to conduct an on-the-job training for the nurses, using the materials from the training.”
Due to the success of the pilot trainings, I-TECH Ukraine intends to finalize training materials, institutionalize the course through its local partners, and develop a manual that could be used in different training formats, including state-owned colleges and medical universities. In addition, an ambitious regional rollout of the training program is anticipated during the next year of the project.
Gabrielle O’Malley, MA, PHD, is I-TECH’S Director of Implementation Science. Dr. O’Malley has worked as an applied research and evaluation professional for over 25 years. Her experience includes a wide variety of international and domestic programs including child survival, private agricultural enterprise, medical education, community technology, reproductive health, HIV prevention (PrEP), and care and treatment as well as applied research for private industry. Her research interests include innovative practices for program evaluation and improvement, formative research, qualitative methods, and the relationship of gender and health.
Dr. O’Malley received her PhD from UW, an MA from Johns Hopkins University and a BA from Smith College.
Malawi is one of first countries in Southeast Africa to respond to the World Health Organization’s call for robust birth surveillance systems. Routine surveillance is essential for public health monitoring of pregnancy outcomes and birth defects, especially in high-HIV burden settings where women living with HIV initiate the use of ... Read More
I-TECH supported the Ministry of Health and Social Services in 2017 and 2018 in the development and dissemination of the national Cervical Cancer Prevention Guidelines including algorithms for screening, referral, and post cryotherapy instrument disinfection, and monitoring and evaluation tools ... Read More
In 2017, I-TECH began the DREAMS program in Khomas and Zambezi regions. The DREAMS program aims to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) through a core package of evidence-based interventions across health, education, and social sectors. At a safe space such as a school or community ... Read More
As a key component of I-TECH's support to HIV care continuum strengthening in Namibia, I-TECH supports the Ministry of Health and Social Services in efforts to achieve the UNAIDS target of “90% of people living with HIV will have a known status.” I-TECH supports above-site HIV testing activities at region-and ... Read More
Pamela Kohler, PhD, MPH, BSN, co-directs I-TECH and holds a joint appointment in Child, Family, and Population Health Nursing, and the Department of Global Health. At I-TECH, Dr. Kohler led the Tanzania Intermediate Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) and currently leads the evaluation and continuous quality improvement activities of the Afya Hatua Project under Tanzania Health Promotion Support. She has led multiple evaluations of programs and policies throughout Eastern and Southern Africa, including HIV differentiated care, cervical cancer screening and treatment, and cryptococcol meningitis services.
Dr. Kohler’s research involves development and testing of health services interventions to improve engagement in HIV care. She led two trials using standardized patient actors to destigmatize HIV prevention and treatment services for adolescents in Kenya and currently leads a stepped care intervention, assigning intensity of services to those with highest need, in Western Kenya. Dr. Kohler completed her nursing training at Johns Hopkins University, and worked clinically in HIV care and Emergency Departments. She holds a PhD in Nursing and an MPH in Health Services from the University of Washington.
McConnico C, Jed SL, Marumo E, Mazibuko S, Mema GM, DeKadt J, Holmes K, Kohler PK. Systems Mapping of Sexually Transmitted Infection Services at Three Clinical Sentinel Surveillance Sites in South Africa: Opportunities for Integrated Care. J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care. 2017 Jan-Feb. pii: S1055-3290(16)30121-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jana.2016.09.004.
Kohler PK, Marumo E, Jed SL, Mema G, Galagan S, Tapia K, Pillay E, DeKadt J, Naidoo E, Dombrowski JC, Holmes KK. A national evaluation using standardised patient actors to assess STI services in public sector clinical sentinel surveillance facilities in South Africa. Sex Transm Infect. 2017 Jan 27. pii: sextrans-2016-052930. doi: 10.1136/sextrans-2016-052930.
Kohler PK, Tippett Barr BA, Kangʼombe A, Hofstee C, Kilembe F, Galagan S, Chilongozi D, Namate D, Machaya M, Kabwere K, Mwale M, Msunguma W, Reed J, Chimbwandira F. Safety, Feasibility, and Acceptability of the PrePex Device for Adult Male Circumcision in Malawi. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2016 Jun 1;72 Suppl 1:S49-55. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000774.
Kohler PK, Namate D, Barnhart S, Chimbwandira F, Tippet-Barr BA, Perdue T, Chilongozi DA, Tenthani L, Phiri O, Msungama W, Holmes KK, Krieger JN. Classification and rates of adverse events in a Malawi male circumcision program: impact of quality improvement training. BMC Health Serv Res. 2016 Feb 17;16(1):61. doi: 10.1186/s12913-016-1305-x.
For Tanzania to meet a WHO-specified target of one or more epidemiologists per 200,000 population  it will require an additional 250 epidemiologists who are well-trained and geographically distributed in all regions of the country. To help address this gap, I-TECH, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and ... Read More
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] ... Read More
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 “Workforce Development in Haiti”