By Mali Kambandu, Communications Officer, BID Initiative Zambia
Aug 3, 2016
Last month, the BID Learning Network (BLN) undertook its first study visit to Benin, one of the VaxTrac implementing countries. Since 2012, VaxTrac, an organisation funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, piloted a tablet-based vaccine management system in 38 public health facilities. These clinics are located in urban and semi-urban communities. To date, the project has scaled up and is serving a total of 100 health facilities across three health zones in Porto Novo-Aguegues-Semi Podji, Allada-Ze-Toffo, and Djougou-Copargo-Ouake respectively.
The BID Initiative Zambia Provincial Coordinator, Fred Njobvu, was part of the ten-person team of visitors which included BLN participants from various African countries. The team spent a week in Benin to learn how the Android-based system collects and manages immunization data to help the Ministry of Health (MOH) improve service delivery for children.
“One thing that struck me was how the whole community has learned about this system and how accepting they are of it. It has been well-received and the mothers and [caregivers] know its function in relation to their child’s health. This is something we can learn from at BID in Zambia – how to sensitize the communities so they know what to expect when they see our tablets being used in the facilities. It also helps that the health workers are very enthusiastic and eager to use the system,” recalls Fred.
Training health workers on the new electronic system was done in small groups with one day per group and two health workers attending from each facility. The trained staff were then required to go back to their facilities and provide on-the-job training to the remaining staff so they all had the knowledge required to operate the system. This was a lesson learned as this strategy wasn’t always effective. In some cases the skills transfer was not as complete as it should have been. For the BID Initiative, this is something to be keenly aware of when rolling out the electronic immunisation registry, which is currently being tested in Zambia. Although BID will provide on-site training, post-training support is critical to ensure staff feel confident operating the new system.
The Benin MOH explained to the visiting BLN team that they have had seamless interaction with the VaxTrac team during implementation. The MOH staff from all levels has been involved at every step of the process. “I think this level of engagement is one of the reasons why VaxTrac interventions have been embraced by their MOH and why they view VaxTrac as an integral part of the work they do,” said Fred. Fred also spoke of challenges such as poor connectivity and the erratic electricity supply that affects how the devices are used. However, there are measures to overcome these challenges, such as the offline mode in the digital system which enables health workers to synchronize information when they are in an area with connectivity.
Overall, this study visit was very successful. Fred is confident that some of the learnings can be applied to the BID Initiative as we continue to rollout interventions, and also informative for BLN countries that are interested in improving health services through improved data collection, quality and use. Stay tuned as we share more from the first BLN study visit.