“I-TECH prides itself on working collaboratively with our international partners. We held the principle from day one that the most successful programs happen when the locus of control sits in-country,” said Marrianne Holec, Senior Program Manager at I-TECH. “We had the foundation in place with our local staff, what was missing was the organizational structure to allow the team in-country to truly lead the project. With the formation of Zim-TTECH, I’m happy to say we are there.”
Among USG funders, it’s recognized that future models for sustainable healthcare rely on local country ownership and leadership. But making the transition from US-based ownership to country ownership isn’t a one-time event, added Holec, “It’s a process that takes time. We wanted to document our process so that other international organizations who are looking to pursue decolonizing global health programming can learn from our experience.”
Through 16 key informant interviews, the team gathered views on transition planning, implementation, and technical support, ethics, and success. Five themes emerged from the data collected:
Develop a vision and empower leadership for change by delegating clear roles and supporting local ownership;
Plan and strategize for transition in a manner that accounts for historical context;
Communicate with and inform stakeholders to understand transition perceptions, understand barriers to transition, and enable open communications related to risks and benefits;
Engage and mobilize staff by constructing necessary infrastructure and providing technical assistance as needed; and
Define short-term and long-term success.
“Sustainability of successful donor funded public health programs is critical if we want to maintain the important gains that have been made over the years,” says Dr. Batsi Makunike, Executive Director of Zim-TTECH. “Strong local organizations with good governance, management, and technical capacities are an important cornerstone of sustainability.
“The process of transitioning from an international to a local organization is daunting,” she continues. “We hope that this study is helpful to other organizations in their efforts to transition.”
 Goosby E, Von Zinkernagel D, Holmes C, Haroz D, Walsh T. Raising the Bar: PEPFAR and New Paradigms for Global Health. JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. 2012;60.
On October 1, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) celebrated the launch of the local and independent Botswana Training and Education Center for Health (B-TECH) and Caribbean Training and Education Center for Health (C-TECH).
For more than 17 years, these teams have worked within the regional Botswana and Caribbean offices of I-TECH to respond to the health needs of individuals and communities infected and affected by HIV. B-TECH and C-TECH, as locally registered non-governmental organizations, will continue to build on those years of experience implementing innovative, locally driven HIV prevention, care, and treatment programs, as well as expand their work to tackle other pressing health issues within the Batswana and Caribbean communities.
As part of the I-TECH network, B-TECH and C-TECH are able to access the academic depth and regulatory structures of UW and, together with local and regional clinical and programmatic expertise, scale up best practices and strengthen health systems. As local entities, B-TECH and C-TECH will also be able to take advantage of expanded partnership opportunities.
Both teams have supported pioneering work in their regions to provide comprehensive, patient-centered care for the most vulnerable populations. The C-TECH team has implemented a groundbreaking preceptorship program to improve provider communication with key populations affected by HIV in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. It has also implemented a successful telementoring program through a Project ECHO®-based platform and model, reaching 465 providers. The program connects groups of providers to form communities of practice throughout the region to facilitate clinical updates, case consultations, and strengthened practice in HIV treatment and care and, recently, COVID-19.
“We look forward to remaining within the I-TECH family,” said Natalie Irving-Mattocks, Executive Director of C-TECH. “But our team is equipped and ready to move into this next chapter, deepening our local relationships, expanding our reach throughout the Caribbean, and building on our commitment to support access to high quality health care for the region’s most vulnerable.”
For its part, the B-TECH team has made an enormous impact on the health systems of Botswana, enabling the policy environment for HIV clinical case management; developing and implementing an interoperable, standards-based health information system; and enhancing the capacity of the health workforce at all levels. The team has also implemented innovative, high-yield testing approaches to increase HIV case identification. Targeted HIV testing strategies include partner testing services; HIV self-testing; testing among presumptive tuberculosis cases; and the expansion of afterhours and weekend testing to target men.
“We are excited to begin this new endeavor to promote innovative, locally driven, and effective programs to respond to the HIV epidemic in Botswana,” said Dr. Odirile Bakae, Executive Director of B-TECH. “With a high level of technical assistance from I-TECH, combined with B-TECH’s boots-on-the-ground approach, we are a winning team. We look forward to a fruitful partnership with both I-TECH/UW and the Government of Botswana.”
I-TECH has worked closely with UW Global Operations Support over the past decade to inform the internal procedures and structures necessary for international office registrations. This work has promoted operational effectiveness by enabling a safe, compliant, and legal environment for conducting international work. I-TECH’s close work with Global Operations Support has also helped to create the administrative and policy structures necessary to enable the successful launch of B-TECH and C-TECH.
Over the past two years, three other I-TECH offices – in Haiti, India, and Zimbabwe – have launched local organizations, signaling I-TECH’s bedrock commitment to transition, sustainability, and country ownership.
“These new organizations reflect our shared goals of serving communities, building capacity, and supporting expert leadership across the I-TECH network,” said Dr. Pamela Collins, I-TECH Executive Director. “We look forward to continued strong collaboration that saves lives.”
Read more about the B-TECH and C-TECH leadership teams below.
Dr. Odirile Bakae, Executive Director, B-TECH
Dr. Bakae is a physician with over 15 years of clinical experience in providing services to people living with HIV, as well as a deep understanding of structuring health programs to optimize client outcomes. He has several years of experience practicing medicine in public health settings in Botswana, including the management of the Infectious Disease Control Centers (IDCC), specializing in ART failure clients, complicated TB and HIV cases, and cervical cancer patients.
In addition to his role as B-TECH Executive Director, Dr. Bakae is the Principal Investigator for the CDC funded Cervical Cancer (GH20-2009) and Strategic Information Services (GH20-2007) awards.
He joined I-TECH Botswana in 2015 and led one of the most successful HIV testing programs in the country, focusing on a client-centered approach. Under his leadership, the country program performed exceptionally well, in terms of quality of service delivery and in meeting donor targets and expectations.
Ms. Kauta is a seasoned operations management professional with over 20 years of experience across a wide range of industries. She joined I-TECH Botswana in April 2009 and, as the Deputy Executive Director for B-TECH, she oversees operations, finance, and human resources, and is responsible for design and implementation of internal controls and compliance oversight at all levels of the organization.
In her management role, Ms. Kauta provides planning and coordination of efficient and effective support services to enable delivery of quality work to B-TECH clients and stakeholders. A key function of her role is to identify solutions to address operational challenges within B-TECH as well as ensure the implementation and adherence to the organization’s operational systems, policies and procedures.
Ms. Irving-Mattocks is a public health program director with extensive experience in managing projects focusing on health systems strengthening. She is also a business development practitioner with 13 years of experience in the field of social development. Her expertise includes financial management, budget management, project proposal writing, program design/development, planning, implementation and monitoring, strategic planning, and institutional development.
To her role as C-TECH Executive Director, Ms. Irving-Mattocks also brings deep experience and a proven track record in mobilizing and managing grants from international funding agencies such as United States Department of Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), PANCAP Global Fund, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Clinton Foundation and National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Dr. Clive Anderson, Board Chair and Technical Advisor, C-TECH
Dr. Anderson has 30 years of experience as a primary care physician, specializing in HIV and STI care and prevention, as well as dermatology. He comes to his role as Board Chair and Technical Advisor after serving as Country Director of I-TECH Jamaica for the past three years.
He remains Technical Advisor to I-TECH Jamaica, where his experience also includes extensive experience as Technical Lead of the Caribbean Quality Improvement Collaborative (CareQIC), Lead HIV Project ECHO® Facilitator and Mentor, and clinical mentor at HIV treatment sites throughout Jamaica.
Dr. Anderson is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Health, University of Washington.
The International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) has transitioned another office to an autonomous entity. The Zimbabwe Technical Assistance, Training and Education Center for Health (Zim-TTECH) was officially launched on April 1, 2020, as a locally registered health trust. Zim-TTECH is the administrative and managing partner for the two existing I-TECH CDC/PEPFAR funded grants in Zimbabwe, each grant having a consortium of local partners:
ZimPAAC (Zimbabwe Partnership to Accelerate AIDS Control) is a partnership between Zim-TTECH, Africaid, Pangaea Zimbabwe AIDS Trust, and I-TECH. ZimPAAC collaborates with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) on context-appropriate health interventions to improve access to, as well as strengthen the quality of HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services. ZimPAAC provides services at 373 facilities in 17 districts.
ZAZIC is a partnership between Zim-TTECH, I-TECH, and two local implementing partners—Zimbabwe Association of Church Related Hospitals (ZACH) and Zimbabwe Community Health Intervention Research Project (ZiCHIRe). ZAZIC supports voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) services at 38 static facilities in 13 districts.
“The transition from an I-TECH country office to a fully fledged independent local organization is exciting,” states Dr. Batsirai Makunike-Chikwinya, Zim-TTECH’s Executive Director. “Zim-TTECH is committed to continue to provide high-quality support to the MoHCC and to the health sector as a whole. Special thanks go to management and staff of both I-TECH/UW [University of Washington] and UZCHS-CTRC [University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences Clinical Trials Research Centre], who played pivotal roles during this transition.”
I-TECH has worked in Zimbabwe since 2003, collaborating with the MoHCC and other partners to improve clinical services and strengthen health systems. “It is a pleasure to support the launch of Zim-TTECH, which is the right next step toward country ownership and, importantly, recognizes the high level of skill and professionalism of the prior I-TECH country office and now Zim-TTECH team,” remarks Dr. Scott Barnhart.
In spring 2018, the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) made University of Washington (UW) history when two of its country offices transitioned into independent organizations. I-TECH’s office in India is now the independently run I-TECH India, and its former office in Haiti now operates as CHARESS (Centre Haïtien pour le Renforcement du Système de Santé). Both organizations are sub-contractors on current I-TECH awards.
“With the India and Haiti I-TECH office transition to a local identity, we are applying what we already know about transition to creating new relationships with these independent entities,” says Dr. Ann Downer, I-TECH Executive Director and Professor in the UW Department of Global Health. “To help ensure long-term sustainability, we are working together on business plans and mapping out strategic priorities and mutual interests. This transition has intensified our partnership rather than creating distance.”
A roadmap for the university
I-TECH has worked closely with UW Global Operations Support over the past decade to inform the internal procedures and structures necessary for international office registrations. According to Doug Divine, Director of UW Global Operations Support, this work has promoted operational effectiveness by enabling a safe, compliant, and legal environment for conducting international work.
“I-TECH has been our key partner in the justification and implementation of these registrations, establishing 11 of the 15 entities registered abroad,” says Divine. “It has been so rewarding to have partnered with I-TECH on such an innovative administrative approach. Seeing these registrations become fully functioning independent entities not only fulfills a key mission of I-TECH to help establish sustained capacity where it is needed most, but also reflects the commitment of the UW community toward international engagement.
I-TECH’s close work with Global Operations Support has also prepared I-TECH India and CHARESS for success, helping to create the administrative and policy structures necessary for them to more easily fledge.
The transition of the India and Haiti offices marks new territory in I-TECH’s move toward country ownership, allowing in-country teams to simplify administration and explore funding opportunities that weren’t available to them as UW entities.
The I-TECH India team looks forward to these new opportunities. “This really opens doors to new things,” says Dr. Anwar Parvez Sayed, Clinical Programs Director for I-TECH India. “We were previously looked at as a foreign entity, and we can now apply for local grants.”
I-TECH India has provided technical assistance to 10 Indian Centers of Excellence (CoE) on HIV/AIDS since 2003. In the years ahead, it will continue to support a complete array of educational services and technical assistance to the CoE network in India, plus an additional seven pediatric sites, called pCoE.
“We will now be complying with local Indian regulations, which simplifies things,” says Madhuri Mukherjee, Country Representative of I-TECH India. “Though we no longer have the layer of Washington State and federal compliance, we will remain closely aligned with I-TECH’s and UW’s missions. It’s beneficial from both sides to maintain a close relationship.”
In fact, I-TECH India and CHARESS will each have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with I-TECH/University of Washington. Each MOU will underscore the organization’s shared history with I-TECH and outline elements of an ongoing commitment — including being preferred partners on new funding opportunities.
In Haiti, CHARESS will continue to maintain, train, and deploy health information systems (HIS) such as iSantéPlus and the Système d’Echange d’Information de Santé d’Haïti (SEDISH), a national health information exchange. It will also ensure that the national sites for both receive on-site and remote technical assistance. In addition, the team will oversee clinical mentoring activities at 20 sites and provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Public Health and Population and other implementing partners in Haiti.
“As CHARESS, we look forward to continuing the programming that we have been so proud of,” remarks Dr. Jean-Guy Honoré, CHARESS Executive Director. “Our HIS work, in particular, has had a real impact in Haiti, and our new local status will allow CHARESS to pursue even more opportunities to become a global leader.”
An updated vision of sustainability
In its 16 years of operation, I-TECH’s ultimate goal has always been to strengthen local capacity and to help build sustainable health systems. To that end, I-TECH’s direct service and technical assistance programs are tailored from the initial planning stage to produce projects that can be successfully absorbed into national systems. Its main partner in this endeavor is always the local Ministry of Health.
At the International AIDS Society conference this year in Amsterdam, Dr. Downer presented recently completed research on six transitioned I-TECH programs (of more than 350 that have transitioned), exploring the degree to which investments had been sustained by local partners, as well as identifying the key elements of successful transition.
I-TECH’s experience with transition to local ownership and long-term sustainability of interventions aligns with those presented by Vogus and Graff (PEPFAR Transitions to Country Ownership, June 2015), including the need to plan for:
Communication of transition strategies through high level diplomacy;
Stakeholder participation in transition planning;
Government support of the plan, including alignment with local government policies, practices, and salaries;
Use of planning tools (i.e., a roadmap); and
Adapting approaches to the local context during transition.
“In addition to the known characteristics of successful transition of projects to local ownership, I-TECH has found that we also need to identify a champion within local government to advocate long-term for the adopted interventions,” says Dr. Downer. “We also need to plan intentionally for how much and what type of technical assistance or short-term funding will be needed in order to ensure sustainability.”
Doug Divine sees massive benefits at each stage of I-TECH’s country office relationships, from registration to independence. “Without I-TECH and the projects it has spearheaded, I’m not sure UW would have made the advancements it has made on the international front,” he says. “I-TECH had the vision, the infrastructure need, and the boots on the ground — which gave us impetus to set up structures for the rest of the university. Other departments can now leverage those resources, and now the spin-off offices fulfill our commitment to allow these structures to grow in their own context.”
The International AIDS Society (IAS) held their 22nd international AIDS conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam 23-27 July 2018. This year, the conference objectives focused on advancing knowledge of HIV through research findings, promoting evidence-based HIV responses tailored to key populations, activating and galvanizing political commitment and accountability, addressing gaps in and highlighting the critical role of HIV prevention, as well as spotlighting the epidemic and HIV response in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Representatives from I-TECH were at the conference to present and discuss their posters:
“Aligning Botswana’s National HIV Testing Services Guidelines to the Era of Treat All.” (Botswana, Jenny Ledikwe)
This abstract explores Botswana’s experience of adapting the WHO HIV Testing Services (HTS) Guidelines, a significant step in reaching epidemic control of HIV, demonstrating the nation’s commitment to rigorous strategies that ensure all Batswana know their status and have timely access to prevention and treatment services.
On June 1, 2018, the University of Washington’s International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) country office in Haiti officially became a local non-governmental organization (NGO). The office will be rebranded as the Centre Haïtien pour le Renforcement du Système de Santé (CHARESS) and will continue to implement programs to improve HIV services via a trained health workforce, robust health information systems (HIS), and clinical mentoring.
CHARESS will be responsible for maintaining, training, and deploying HIS such as iSantéPlus and the Système d’Echange d’Information de Santé d’Haïti (SEDISH), a national health information exchange, across Haiti and ensure the sites receive on-site and remote technical assistance. The team will also oversee clinical mentoring activities at 20 sites and provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) and other implementing partners in Haiti.
“I-TECH has a mission to support sustainable development,” says Scott Barnhart, MD, MPH, Professor in the Department of Global Health and an I-TECH Principal Investigator overseeing programs in Haiti. “The conversion of the I-TECH country office and launch of a fully independent NGO to take up those activities is testament to I-TECH’s commitment to fostering locally owned and led development.”
The announcement of the shift to local ownership comes after two years of strategic planning by key stakeholders and partners to successfully transition I-TECH Haiti’s country office into an independently functioning NGO. As such, CHARESS will aim to allocate more of its funding to program activities, as well as pursue local funding opportunities restricted to Haitian organizations.
“The programs that are shifting to CHARESS have already proved to have had a dramatic impact on the health care landscape in Haiti,” remarked Jean-Guy Honoré, MD, I-TECH Haiti’s Country Director. “Transitioning of the key programs, specifically our HIS work, to a local ownership will allow CHARESS to become a leader in sustainability on the global stage. We are proud of the work that we have accomplished and look forward to the future.”
For 16 years, I-TECH has helped develop strong national health systems in low- to middle-resource countries while promoting the importance of local ownership as a way to sustain those effective health systems. I-TECH will continue to be a close partner in supporting CHARESS and looks forward to continued collaboration.
Stefan Wiktor, MD, is a physician with more than 25 years of experience in epidemiologic research and public health programs related to the control of infectious diseases. He leads I-TECH’s work on hepatitis prevention and control, and is Acting Professor in the Department of Global Health. Prior to joining I-TECH, Dr. Wiktor was the Team Lead of the World Health Organization’s Global Hepatitis Programme.
Dr. Wiktor previously worked at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) where he conducted research studies of HIV-1 and HIV-2 in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa, and led a large-scale HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment program in Tanzania. His research showed that anti-retroviral medications were effective in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission. Other research he did proved that antibiotics reduced bacterial infections in HIV-infected adults, a finding that led to the WHO recommendation for use of antibiotic prophylaxis to prevent deaths in HIV-infected adults.
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
Despite establishing COVID-19 monitoring measures within the existing routine national surveillance system and significant efforts to conduct testing, contact tracing, and case investigations, Government of Malawi institutions at both the national and district levels faced many challenges in mounting an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The existing COVID-19 surveillance ... 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
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