ReachOut: Distance Learning for African Healthcare

ReachOut: Distance Learning for African Healthcare

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Last Update: May 9, 2012

The Distance Learning program is run out of the Learning Innovations Center in the Infectious Diseases Institute’s (IDI) Learning Hub. It has been developed with support from Global Health Corps and the work of Nicholas Mugabi, Susan Lister, Raymond Besiga, and Allyson Krupar, under the close supervision of ATIC staff and the IDI library. The program has been in development since 2008, with small pilots occurring in 2009 and 2010. In January of 2012, the distance learning program expanded its programs, producing a post training support tool using distance learning technologies, particularly mobile phones and computer based software.

Distance learning, or the use of computer based learning and mobile phone based learning to support the continuing medical education of participants in IDI trainings, has the potential to save lives throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Healthcare workers throughout sub-Saharan Africa have identified the need for distance education because travel to training facilities is often costly and time consuming, if even possible. Rural healthcare workers particularly face the challenge of how to maintain their education while continuing their practice. As a result, many healthcare workers throughout sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to the newest lifesaving methods in the care, prevention, and treatment of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and other infectious diseases resulting in thousands of avoidable deaths each year.

Type: citizen sector

The Problem

Continued Medical Education (CME) is a requirement of healthcare workers worldwide. Rural healthcare workers who do not engage in CME, do not have access to and therefore cannot implement the newest lifesaving methods for the care, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, resulting in thousands of unnecessary and avoidable deaths each year throughout the developing world. These healthcare workers, particularly mid-level cadres such as nurses and lab technicians, working in rural environments do not have the resources to travel to training locations nor do their facilities have the personnel to support many workers leaving for training. As such training must be done on site for rural healthcare workers to stay informed and continue their vital, lifesaving work utilizing the newest methods. Rural healthcare workers also often lack technological resources, from reliable electricity to internet access, and the skills to use these technologies.

The Solution

Using available technologies like computers and basic mobile phones, IDI disseminates lifesaving training information to distant rural healthcare workers in Uganda and creates learning communities across Africa that increase knowledge retention and improves clinical practice in the care and prevention of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria management. IDI is also pursuing private-public partnerships to build infrastructure in rural health facilities to create an accessible and sustainable solution to distance learning and data entry for rural clinics.<br /> <br /> Post-training support and trainer-trainee interaction improves international indicator performance across disciplines in medical care. Distance Learning for Healthcare Workers in Africa hosts innovations, such as mEduText, a community of healthcare workers, for training that (1) supports current trainees, (2) expands access to training materials to other staff of facilities represented in trainings and (3) creates a collaborative learning community of healthcare workers throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Participants receive distance learning content via internet, USB flash drive, and/or mobile phone about the newest development in their fields and join learning community groups to share their expertise.


The proposed project has two arms to reach two different populations: <br /> <br /> <b>1. Rural Distance Learning</b><br /> Healthcare workers from rural Uganda attend a training at the Infectious Diseases Institute in Kampala. They receive technology training during their subject matter training concerning the care, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Following the training, they return to their facility with a USB drive with course content and additional exercises. They are given the option to enroll in a mobile phone based service to receive updates via mobile phone and to connect with a larger community of healthcare workers using SMS. Please see for more information about the SMS tools. These healthcare workers gain technology literacy, a learning community, and continuing medical education through the Rural Distance Learning program.<br /> <br /> <b>2. Online Distance Learning</b><br /> IDI attracts trainees from throughout sub-Saharan Africa, many of whom have high levels of access to internet and are experienced in online learning. As such, the Online Distance Learning program aims to connect healthcare workers throughout sub-Saharan Africa using the Learning Management System Moodle and an interactive eNewsletter and web portal. Building an online learning community around the care, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases that is specific for the challenges in sub-Saharan Africa is the goal of the Online Distance Learning program. Participants learn from each other and are active trainers through the discussions, forums and expertise sharing.

Budget: $10,000 - $50,000


Our peers in sub-Saharan Africa recognize the potential of distance learning in promotion of quality healthcare; specifically, AMREF's nursing training program, FHI360's Satellife program, Health[E]Foundation's distance learning programs, eMocha, and IntraHealth, among others. Most of our competitors in training, such as Satellife and eMocha, rely on PDAs or smart phones. Distance Learning for Healthcare workers in Africa distinctly emphasizes using local resources, solar providers, technical support companies, telecommunications companies, and building collaborative distance learning communities. Competitors pose challenges; specifically concurrent training, language barriers, and funding competition among donors and health workers themselves, but challenges in distance learning communities are lessons learned for IDI's Distance Learning expansion.

Team Members

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Growth Tracker

Stage: Milestone 1 of 2
Analysis and planning based off of results of Rural Distance Learning Pilot
Date of Completion 07/23/12
In Progress
Plan future implementation of Rural Distance Learning
Build and expand online community
Date of Completion 12/01/12
In Progress
Outreach to target healthcare workers in sub-Saharan Africa
Milestone 1
Analysis and planning based off of results of Rural Distance Learning Pilot
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