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Preparing the health workforce to make the most of data

July 30, 2019 by David Karunda and Celina Kareiva

One of the leading goals of the Data Use Partnership is to equip Tanzania’s health sector and workforce with data use skills for the country’s changing digital landscape. Photo: PATH/Trevor Snapp.

Health workers exchange learnings about Tanzania's electronic immunization registry. Photo: PATH/Trevor Snapp.

For nearly thirty years as a health worker in Tanzania, Salome has used pen and paper to record patient data. A digital transformation promises to streamline her work and improve patient care.

Digital health solutions increase data quality and accessibility, but to be effective and improve patient outcomes, health workers must know how to make the most of the information. For many like Salome, Tanzania’s digital transformation will require retraining and developing new digital literacy skills.

Building the workforce of the future

The Data Use Partnership—a collaboration between the Government of Tanzania and PATH—aims to equip Tanzania’s health sector and workforce with skills for the country’s changing digital landscape. This includes training existing and future generations of health workers to make better use of digital platforms and data.

To facilitate trainings, the Data Use Partnership established the Capacity Building Consortium (CBC). Made up of three universities, two health research and training institutes, and zonal health training centers around the country, the CBC fosters a culture of data use and builds the capacity of health workers to identify and solve problems, measure performance, allocate resources, track patients, support clinical decisions, and streamline service delivery.

In Tanzania, PATH is working with the government to update training curriculum to improve health workers' digital literacy. Photo: PATH/Trevor Snapp.

In Tanzania, PATH is working with the government to build a health workforce for its digital future. Photo: PATH/Trevor Snapp.

Making the most of data

“In the health sector, a lot of data are collected, but aren’t necessarily put into efficient use when making crucial decisions,” explains Professor Flora Lucas Kessy, Secretariat Chairperson of the CBC and instructor at the Tanzania Training Center for International Health. “The consortium was formed to build the capacity of health workers through both in-service and pre-service training.”

The consortium is building the health workforce’s capacity by:

  • Developing trainings and innovative platforms: The Data Use Partnership is developing a new series of short-term trainings, using cost-effective and innovative platforms. Trainings will be offered in person through zonal health resource centers to ensure greater accessibility, and through eLearning modules that the CBC aims to integrate under a single government-owned National Health eLearning platform.
  • Establishing new delivery methods: eLearning platforms can help deliver trainings to rural health providers, where long distances, limited resources, and poor transportation may otherwise be a barrier to education. “There are lots of current innovations in this country in terms of mobile phone and smartphone use,” explains Professor Kessy. “We can use digital platforms to deliver critical courses even to health providers that are very far away.”
  • Increasing focus on data use and analytics: The CBC will review, develop, and standardize curricula for data analytics training, so that the workforce is operating from a place of common experience. With more than 136 institutions offering certificates and diplomas in health and allied sciences programs, it’s critical that students graduate with a shared skillset, understanding, and appreciation for data use.
  • Fostering government ownership and peer learning: The CBC also recognizes the importance of ensuring that trainings are delivered by their own peers and experts, instead of an outside institution or implementing partner. “Health workers have to feel that they’re being trained by one of their own,” explains Mr. Tumaini Macha, Assistant Director, Monitoring & Evaluation from the Ministry of Health. “This mentorship model is even more efficient and ensures that trainers understand the need in different areas.”

Achieving digital transformation

"Having a curriculum that’s strong in data use ensures that whoever graduates from universities and other academic institutions, goes home with knowledge on how to deliver on data use,” explains Professor Kessy. “We've been able to bring together five different prime institutions that have their own different ways of operating. It’s so unique that we can work together, forget our own university boundaries, and build an open consortium that’s focused on data use.”

The CBC is critical to Tanzania achieving digital transformation. By educating and training the existing workforce and preparing a pipeline of future talent, the health workforce will be able to make optimal use of digital tools, ultimately leading to better patient care and more equitable access to health services.

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