I am pleased to announce that the Malawi Ministry of Health has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to scale the mobile health hotline Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (CCPF), or “Health Center by Phone,” nationally. When complete, CCPF will be the first, government-run national mobile health hotline in Africa. This MOU solidifies the Ministry’s commitment to fully adopt and integrate CCPF into the established health system. As with any innovation, and particularly within the digital health landscape, getting to this stage of scale is a major achievement.
“When complete, CCPF will be the first, government-run national mobile health hotline in Africa.”
HIV has a profound impact on communities around the world and the health systems that serve them. Many remote, underserved communities feel the heavy burden of the HIV epidemic and can face substantial challenges in accessing health services. New approaches, systems and technologies have the potential to strengthen these systems and provide greater access to quality healthcare in these last mile communities.
As a global health innovator, VillageReach is dedicated to identifying, testing and scaling these potential solutions, which can be leveraged to support the global fight against HIV. World AIDS Day gives us a moment to reflect on our work with partners and governments that contributes to the reduction of HIV, particularly at the last mile.
OpenLMIS, SELV, iSC. To most people these acronyms don’t mean much. To me, they tell a story of getting vaccines to the most remote communities in Mozambique. Sistema Electronico de Logstica de Vacinas (SELV) is the local name of a software used to record information about where vaccines need to go and how they are going to get there – an implementation of OpenLMIS, a logistics management information system (LMIS). As the Information Systems Officer at VillageReach, it’s my job to provide technical assistance and support for this critical software. The BETA version of OpenLMIS 3.0 was launched last week, representing a major milestone in the evolution of software that continues to demonstrate the import and impact of robust information systems at the last mile.
Over the last few weeks, my colleagues and I traveled to five provinces around Mozambique to talk about SELV. In some provinces like Cabo Delgado, SELV is an established tool. In others like Maputo City, SELV is brand new. VillageReach and the Ministry of Health are just beginning to expand the reach of SELV to all eleven provinces, so this trip provided me an opportunity to meet stakeholders, introduce myself as a resource, and find out how we can better support SELV within the immunization supply chain.
The OpenLMIS Community is pleased to announce the beta release of OpenLMIS 3.0!
The initial offering to come out of the re-architecture effort for OpenLMIS, 3.0 Beta contains one slice of functionality, Requisitions, based on an all-new micro-service architecture. This release is the first to utilize the new architecture and is a strong step in the direction of “shared investment, shared benefit” that is the primary mission of the OpenLMIS Community. 3.0 Beta is a proof-of-concept for this architecture and is not a feature-complete release. It does not contain every feature that the eventual 3.0 OpenLMIS stable release will, and further features will be added to the system as we work toward the full 3.0 release scheduled for the end of February, 2017.
Last week, the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC) brought together hundreds of the top minds in global reproductive health issues at the Coalition’s 17th Annual Meeting. This meeting provided a forum for discussing the many triumphs and continuing challenges of reaching 120 million additional women with reproductive health services by the year 2020. Access to reproductive health commodities allows women to decide if and when to have children. This ability is not only a human right, it can be a life or death situation for many women and young girls. Increasing access to reproductive health is also one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to reduce infant and maternal deaths. As an active member of the RHSC’s System Strengthening Working Group, VillageReach eagerly engaged in this week of conversation and idea exchange. Many of the central themes reflect the work of VillageReach, allowing us to bring our experience and expertise to the conversation while learning and growing from the experiences of our partners.
Communication is constant and ubiquitous – something we do with nary a thought throughout our lives. It’s so natural in fact that we tend to take it for granted. After all, when was the last time you engaged in a meta-conversation about the efficacy of a discussion you just finished? Alternatively, when did you last work on improving your lexis or grammar? If you’re like me, it’s been a while. Because our communication styles seem perfectly adequate for our daily personal lives, we tend to focus on more pressing concerns. For a technologist, that likely involves implementing some aspect of a project… and failing. Lack of communication is often the problem.
Software shops don’t tend to advertise it, but programming and IT are risky business. An IBM study found that nearly 60 percent of projects fail and that human, rather than technological, factors play a dominant role. Miscommunication is among the surest ways to kill a project. Sponsors may be misinformed about progress and withdraw support after subsequent disappointment. Business analysts may misunderstand users’ needs, developers may misinterpret analysts’ requirements, and because software development is often a collaborative endeavor, developers may even misunderstand one another. A lot can go wrong and — statistically — probably will. Our collective communication skills are simply not as good as we’re inclined to think.
Having been in my new role as President of VillageReach only a few weeks, each day is filled with new “firsts.” First staff meeting, first attempt to work the phone system (failed), first presentation (so-so). Among them was my first—but certainly not last—Final Mile Logistics Working Group Happy Hour hosted by Lynden International. At VillageReach, we focus on increasing access to quality healthcare for those living in the most difficult-to-reach and underserved communities where basic, routine health care delivery is a huge challenge. For us, supply chain and logistics are essential elements of addressing that challenge, so it was great to meet and talk with representatives and leading thinkers from Puget Sound-area companies and our WGHA colleagues who share our interest, have a passion for new ideas, and apply them on a global scale. Who better to help us think through the challenges and opportunities of last mile delivery?
As a global health innovator, VillageReach invests great time and effort in exploring how new technologies can be applied to address existing heath systems challenges. Often, this means considering how health system improvements can be leveraged to solve more than one problem at a time. Take, for instance, the emerging Zika virus threat: while VillageReach does not coordinate emergency disease response, our work improving routine transport of medical commodities could be used to strengthen emergency efforts. Similarly, emerging and innovative technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, commonly referred to as drones) could add to this comprehensive approach to healthcare improvement.
Malawi has made incredible strides over the past few years to reduce morbidity and mortality, specifically among women and children under 5 years old. Key to this success has been a focus on using community health workers, known in Malawi as Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs), to push direct healthcare services throughout the most rural, hard-to-reach, quintessential last mile communities. As a result, people who otherwise may not have reached a health facility can now access basic services from their HSA—sometimes even in their own homes. At the same time, however, more HSAs work in isolation or as the only person from their cadre within their area, with little interaction with colleagues, supervisors or other healthcare providers.
Often when we talk about methods of delivery in low-resource environments, we are referring to simple solutions. Health commodities arrive at rural clinics on trucks, by bicycle or motorbike, by foot, and sometimes even by boat or canoe. These traditional delivery methods are often faced with simple, but insurmountable barriers. Roads are washed out or are in poor repair. Vehicles are not properly maintained or require expensive fuels. Routes pass through potentially dangerous areas with threatening wildlife. Trying to find new, innovative solutions for these problems has lead VillageReach to UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles. Last week, I presented at the first meeting of the Final Mile Logistics Working Group, providing an overview of UAVs and the potential they have for filling the delivery gap in global development.