Turning Visions into Reality at the District Learning Center in Salima, Malawi

Turning Visions into Reality at the District Learning Center in Salima, Malawi

This article was originally posted on K4Health’s Blog.

Twelve months ago the K4Health project began its needs assessment to better understand how the flow of knowledge, information, and communications could be improved with regards to Family Planning and Reproductive Health, and HIV & AIDS, in support of the K4Health project.

Seven months ago – in December 2009 – the project returned to disseminate the results of the assessment; to meet with key stakeholders at the national, district and community levels; and to present some ideas for improving the flow of information up and down the chain, from national to district to community, and back from community, to district to national levels. Five months ago, the project returned to work with those same stakeholders to develop concrete plans to put in place our vision of Malawi-based K4Health Toolkits, District Learning Centers in Salima and Nkhotakota, and a mobile-phone network for community health workers, and to introduce the project’s new full-time Coordinator.

Today, those visions have become reality. Visiting the Salima-based District Learning Center (DLC), one sees a vibrant space provided by the Salima District Hospital, where four internet-connected computers were being used to visit the K4Health Malawi website, as well as the global toolkits for Family Planning, Reproductive Health, and HIV & AIDS.

The hospital’s Family Planning Advisor talks of how the project’s mobile phone system, using the Frontline SMS Medic platform, was revolutionizing the way that communications are flowing from and to community health workers. And I heard from the hospital’s management team how the DLC was providing new ways of accessing critical health information.

In a hard-to-reach health center, community health workers talk about how having mobile phones connected to the Frontline SMS hub at the District Hospital is having a huge impact on time and efficiency. Not only are people able to send it data and monitoring reports instantly, instead of taking weeks, but they are able to save 40km roundtrips on bicycles (5 hours) to report stock-outs, emergencies, or to ask questions.

The Salima District Hospital – and the health centers that it works with are providing inspiration and evidence that collaboration between a USAID-funded project and a District hospital can provide results that save time, money, and lives.

Piers Bocock is Director of Knowledge Exchange at MSH.

Photo Credit: K4Health