Connecting Frontline Workers in Nkhotakota, Malawi to Improve Knowledge Exchange

Connecting Frontline Workers in Nkhotakota, Malawi to Improve Knowledge Exchange

This article was originally posted on K4Health’s Blog.

It’s late in the evening in a hard-to-reach village in the Malawian District of Nkhotakota.  There is no electricity in this village, nor in the Bua community health center that serves 11,280 people, including a pregnant mother who goes into pre-term labor. The local Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) is called to provide assistance because the local maternity nurse is not at home.

The battery-powered radio at the health center has long-since died, and the only form of communication they have is a K4Health mobile phone that was provided to the HSA to improve knowledge exchange and communications between frontline health workers, their health centers, and the District Hospital. The HSA, who had recharged her phone that day using a solar panel charger provided by the project, sends a text message to the maternity matron at the District Hospital who immediately dispatches an ambulance to pick up the expectant mother. She is taken to the hospital and treated. Her baby was still-born, but had it not been for that text message, the mother would have died too.

This was just one story I heard while sitting on the concrete “benches” at the Bua Health Center, with two HSAs and three Community Based Distribution Agents (CBDAs), all of whom are participating in the K4Health demonstration project throughout Nkhotakota. They talk about how the phones save time, money, and lives.  They tell us that their colleagues who don’t have phones have seen how these phones are having an impact, and urge us to consider providing more phones so all health workers in the community can be connected.

It’s hard to quantify the value of handing out simple mobile phones to frontline health workers, and sometimes projects are hard to justify without the somewhat clinical monitoring and evaluation metrics. But listening to these healthcare providers talk about how a phone that we’ve given them has changed the way they work in remote villages with no other connection to the outside world validates this project for me.  They continue to thank the project for its assistance. Now if only I could figure out the right M&E metric for a ‘thank you’. . .

Piers Bocock is Director of Knowledge Exchange at MSH.

Photo Credit: K4Health

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