How We Are Linking the Field to KM: Establishing Sustainable K4Health Learning Centers in Malawi

(This post was originally published on the K4Health Blog)

By Scott Dalessandro, Communication Specialist & Toolkit Coordinator

As my family and friends in Washington and Baltimore coped with the so-called “Snomageddon” and “Snowpocalypse,” my colleagues from Management Sciences for Health and I were half a world away in Africa’s warm heart, making progress with K4Health activities in Malawi.

Building on the shared vision developed in December, this trip marked that exciting (though sometimes unpredictable!) time when much-discussed plans become prioritized actions.

Based on findings from the Malawi needs assessment and following the framework of K4Health’s country model, the team began laying the foundation for Malawi's district learning centers -- physical spaces where health workers can come to learn and access information on family planning, reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS. Participants at the December dissemination workshop, including the District Health Education Officers, were very enthusiastic and later presented the idea to their respective district hospitals’ management teams.

At the start of our February trip, we visited these management teams at the Salima and Nkhotakota district hospitals to discuss how we could work together to make the learning centers a reality. After briefly presenting the K4Health project and its goals, we quickly got to work discussing the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, including their prediction that demand for access among health workers could be overwhelming!

After our brief visits to the district hospitals, we spent the next three days in Lilongwe working together to develop prioritized actions plans. K4Health, for example, is in the process of hiring start-up coordinators for each hospital who can initially manage the learning center and train users on global toolkits and other K4Health resources, as well as locally-relevant toolkits (currently in development).

In addition to their already busy schedules, the district hospital management teams are identifying a space for the learning centers and working to identify key staff with whom the start-up coordinators can work to transfer the start-up coordinators’ responsibilities. This latter strategy will be especially important as K4Health Malawi and our local partners work together to make learning center activities sustainable as on-going hospital operations.

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