By Mwanaidi Msangi, Communications Associate, BID Initiative
May 7, 2015
During the testing phase of interventions in four health facilities in the districts of Meru and Arusha, we established a WhatsApp group as a communication forum for healthcare workers.
To determine the best means of communication for peer networking among health workers, we conducted a survey. While many agreed meetings are the most effective method, they are costly and time intensive. Text messaging was another option, but it does not foster conversation for a group. Finally, WhatsApp emerged as the top solution.
The User Advisory Group (UAG) created the group on the social platform which has grown from 7 to 20 members, consisting of healthcare workers, district officials, and BID Initiative team members in Arusha region. Healthcare workers are encouraged to use the social network to share their experiences and help each other with their responsibilities related to immunization data, collection, and use.
Conversations kicked-off late last year and daily interactions have provided a useful channel for members to discuss issues related to vaccine supplies and completing monthly Immunization and Vaccination Development (IVD) Program reports. For example, last quarter, there was vaccine stock out in Arusha City and Meru District and parents were traveling from one clinic to another to find immunization services. Healthcare workers used WhatsApp to effectively communicate with one another and agreed to give parents their phone numbers and call back in a week to notify them if they received vaccine supply.
Furthermore, the group communicated with each other regarding vaccine supplies such as BCG syringes. Through the WhatsApp group, one healthcare provider located supplies at other facilities and asked the group to share surplus supplies to help avoid a potential stockout. The result was a transfer of 300 BCG syringes to Ngarenaro and Kaloleni health facilities, the high-volume clinics in Arusha. In events that could have led to a child missing out on a life-saving vaccine, these discussions allowed parents to receive the services they needed to protect their children.
Members also shared information on filling out the monthly IVD report. Through the group, they helped each other use the job aid prepared by the BID Initiative. Members took pictures of the job aid to guide others in filling in the IVD report form and helped clarify how to use it, resulting in increased reporting accuracy.
It is without a doubt WhatsApp can be a useful tool for communication among healthcare workers during this phase of the BID Initiative and beyond. So far, we have learned that if we can connect healthcare workers with each other, they can easily discuss challenges and work through ways to help improve upon our proposed interventions. The BID Initiative will continue to emphasize the importance of the group in sharing IVD activities, keeping the group active, and adding more members within Arusha region as we start the implementation phase.