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Participants reflect on lessons and growth, as the BID Learning Network gathers one last time in Zambia

By Mbye Njie, EPI Capacity Building and Surveillance Officer

Sep 21, 2017

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Photo: PATH/Trevor Snapp. This week, BID Learning Network (BLN) participants gathered for the last BLN Discussion Meeting.

Sometimes the best solutions have a deceptively simple answer, or the solution already exists. Peer learning networks are an opportunity for professionals working across a range of workplaces, sectors and countries to swap experiences, share best practices, and adapt defined solutions to their own contexts, so as not to reinvent the wheel. For the past four years, The BID Learning Network (BLN) has been a platform for this sharing. The BLN was designed to foster continuous learning and communication among countries committed to improving timely access to high-quality immunization data for informed decision-making. Through a series of online forums, study visits, and webinars, BLN members have collaborated to help design, demonstrate, and discuss solutions.

As the BLN convenes its final discussion meeting in Lusaka, Zambia this week, we caught up with one BLN member, Mbye Njie, EPI Capacity Building and Surveillance Officer for The Gambia, to discuss what the BLN has meant to him, since it launched in 2013.

This is the final BLN Discussion Meeting – what sessions are you most looking forward to between Sept. 19-22?

I expect to learn lessons from the BLN’s demonstration and design countries on electronic immunization registries (EIR). This will improve our understanding of EIR implementation. In particular, I’m looking forward to the field visit to Mazabuka, since it will give me firsthand information and an opportunity to interact with service providers and to learn more about Zambia’s health system. Health workers will be able to express their feelings, what is motivating them, the challenges they’re currently facing, and the solutions that will help them improve data quality and use. I’m also looking forward to sharing The Gambia’s experience with a web-based immunization registry, called the E-Tracker.

What have you personally gained from your participation in the BLN?

Through the BLN, I’ve learned that better data will lead to better decision-making, and can improve the health of every last child in the community. I’ve also learned that coming together as a group with common problems will give better solutions.

How has The Gambia benefited from your participation?

The Gambia has benefitted a lot from the BLN, as the network has helped us initiate an EIR in the country, and provided broader insight on electronic health information systems. It has also improved our attitude on data management, analysis, and utilization for decision-making. For example, health workers are eager to use electronic devices to analyze and submit their reports, other programmes, like the surveillance department, are now reporting data electronically on a weekly basis. I would say The Gambia is one of the best beneficiaries of the BLN.

Can you reflect on a recent BLN experience that sticks out in your mind? How did these platforms/experiences help you grow professionally?

The Dakar meeting in 2015 was our first interaction with the BLN, but the Ghana discussion meeting in May 2016 still sticks in my mind. This is when we were informed that the BLN would support The Gambia as it piloted its EIR. Since our software application is similar to that of Ghana, this meeting guided us in reshaping our strategy. For instance, Ghana advised us to use laptops or tablets instead of desktops. This allows registration to be done at outreach sites. It has also given us the opportunity to interact with our colleagues in Ghana and to address the challenges we’ve faced along the way. We still consult health facility staff we met in Ghana whenever we have challenges.

The Gambia is working to scale up its immunization E-Tracker. What progress has been made so far?

We are looking for funds to scale up the E-Tracker to other health facilities and to improve the system so it is more user-friendly for our health context. We are thinking of modifying the application so it can allow for both offline and online modes. We’re also exploring other strategies for using smart paper technologies to link to the DHIS2.

For more coverage of this week’s BLN Discussion Meeting, follow us on Twitter and Facebook and check back next week for a recap of the sessions.

Mbye Njie is an EPI Capacity Building and Surveillance Officer for The Gambia, and a member of the BLN.

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