Innovative funding strategies to scale community-based antenatal care services and strengthen local capacity

September 20, 2023 by Tara Newton

A new approach to funding strengthens local capacity and sustainability while empowering community health workers to bring lifesaving interventions to mothers and children

PATH’s Digital Health Ecosystem project awarded four Africa-based digital health organizations with funding to expand and adapt their offerings to benefit community health and explore sustainable business models. This is the second article (read the first here) in a series that highlights the different phases of the project, including the application process, the organizational capacity assessment, Community Health Toolkit (CHT) onboarding, and business outcomes.

In Kenya, the maternal mortality ratio is 530 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is much higher than the global average of 223 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Antenatal care (ANC) prevents and manages potential causes of maternal and neonatal deaths and morbidities. PATH’s Digital Health Ecosystem (DHE) project, funded by Bayer Foundation and in partnership with Medic, awarded IntelliSOFT Consulting Limited funds to leverage the CHT to not only bring lifesaving interventions to mothers and children, but also receive concerted organizational strengthening and business planning support. IntelliSOFT is a Kenyan-owned company with more than 15 years of experience that focuses on designing, developing, implementing, supporting, and maintaining digital solutions, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. This profile will highlight not only IntelliSOFT’s intervention for the project and the importance of localization (i.e., partnering with local organizations for increased acceptability and sustainability), but also their experience with the organizational capacity assessment.

IntelliSOFT uses their expertise to scale a community health module

IntelliSOFT developed Mama’s Hub, a Maternal Health Information System, to address challenges in information management (collection, storage, analysis, dissemination) for maternal health to improve services for mothers and their children. Mama’s Hub serves as a personal health record for pregnant women and aids ANC service provision by facility-based health care workers. It offers health care provider decision support by providing prompts and alerts according to the protocol and providing a checklist for services provided in each ANC visit.

The Neonatal Nutrition Digital Adaptation Kit (NNDAK) is a system built in partnership with PATH and Philips Research to transform and streamline data collection by equipping mothers and health care providers with information and real time feedback to adapt practices that optimize provision of life-saving human milk.

For the DHE project, IntelliSOFT will document how Mama's Hub and NNDAK workflows can be integrated into the CHT, the documentation will make it easier for CHT implementers to learn how the Mama's Hub and NNDAK foundation forms and data fields can be customized to meet specific contexts.

Strengthening capacity for long-term vitality

The Organizational Capacity Assessment is an important phase of the DHE project because it highlights strengths and areas of improvement around essential systems, policies, and procedures to ensure the grantees’ relevance and long-term viability in the digital health ecosystem. This project aims not only to bring impactful interventions to the community, but also strengthen capacity to encourage localization. The Organizational Capacity Assessment Tool (OCAT) covers seven key capacity areas (See Figure 1) critical for the success and long-term health of any organization.


Figure 1: OCAT Seven Capacity Areas

Steven Wanyee, Founder and CEO at IntelliSOFT, recently shared his perspective on the project and how they are using the findings from the assessement.

Why did IntelliSOFT pursue the Digital Health Ecosystem project?

We are deeply active in global health informatics and digital health initiatives and working groups. As domain experts, we have actively initiated, spearheaded, and contributed to developing and establishing currently influential approaches, policies, methods, and tools that continue to be applicable across digital health technology investments and implementations. We are a long-time partner of PATH, having worked together on the NNDAK, with Digital Square, and the CDC Technical Assistance Platform. We value our partnership and the opportunity to work on this project that supports IntelliSOFT to further strengthen our entrepreneurial sustainability.

What did your team learn from the assessment process and how are you applying those learnings?

We analyzed the outcomes and developed action plans following the assessment. We were excited to learn how to approach organizational continuous improvement and more importantly we were able to determine the capacity and functional status of our organization. The assessment happened in between a transformative organizational exercise, which identified gaps and areas for improvement. The OCAT learnings therefore came in very handy to boost the transformation exercise. We are continuing to work with the PATH team to map our areas of focus identified by the OCAT such as conducting a stakeholder analysis and creating a stakeholder management plan, into our business planning strategies. The assessment and follow on business planning will allow us to make the necessary adjustments as an organization which could unlock new grant funding opportunities from bilateral, multilateral, and private philanthropic donors.

What is your team currently focusing on for the project?

We are enhancing the CHT with capabilities to support pharmacovigilance and utilizing the Digital Adaptation Kit (DAK) approach and SMART guidelines to ensure better and complete translation of requirements and maintaining fidelity to guideline narratives. We are also developing Mama’s Hub materials and documentation to guide integration into the eCHIS and continue to work on the areas of focus identified in the OCAT to develop a scale and sustainability plan for IntelliSOFT.

Why is localization important for African organizations such as IntelliSOFT and what are you most excited about with this work?

Our intimate understanding of the context we work within means that we are likely to be more effective and impactful in sustainably solving the health system challenges in the locales where we work. We are excited about our strengthened ability as digital health entrepreneurs that will make us more competitive and functionally efficient in a more sustainable manner. IntelliSOFT appreciates this innovative funding opportunity to engage and strengthen the private health sector digital actors. We strongly believe that this should be institutionalized alongside the traditional funding model because if done well, it will certainly result in stronger and more sustainable digital health entrepreneurs.

Stay tuned for the next article in the series and visit our project page for more information.