First year journey of Community Health – Community of Practice

Here we share the year-end report of the lessons learnt from the first year of activity of the Community Health- Community of Practice (CH-CoP). This is based on surveys, key informant interviews, analysis of the digital platform and brainstorming carried out by the facilitation team, including their intermediary reports.

By Sanghita Bhattacharyya

It’s just over a year, when in February 2018 the Community Health – Community of Practice (CH- CoP) was launched. It has been an exciting learning journey with 250+ experts, and thanks to the members for their time and commitment to create this strong network.  The idea of CH-CoP, originated from the Institutionalizing Community Health Conference (ICHC) in Johannesburg in 2017, is to create a platform for country-to-country lesson sharing and developing a shared global learning agenda around community health. With support from UNICEF in collaboration with USAID, a multi-country facilitation team with technical support from Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp was created to spearhead this ambitions journey.

We are happy to share the detailed report summing up the key findings and lessons learnt.

The CH- CoP network and its key activities

There has been some hits and misses in this journey, but there are always lessons that we can take forward as we move to phase-II. We have successfully launched the bi-lingual platform (English and French), which has now grown to 250+ experts. Our mandate of having practitioners, managers, researcher and policy makers from Global South has been accomplished as we have 65% experts from LMIC, but still we miss experts from certain region – South Asia, east African countries like Ethiopia, Tanzania.

Figure1:  Distribution of members by country income groups (January 2019)

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We have a good gender balance (48% female), however it is observed that more men are participating in our online forum, so we need to take care of this aspect. Range of digital activities we organised last year drew interest, as 113 discussion topics were launched, which generated around 200 responses. On average, we had around 250 registrations per webinar with 56 actual participation. Year long activities in form of blogs, online discussion, webinars, flash consultation could sustain interest of members in this CH-CoP. As rightly pointed by one experts who took part in our evaluation “The main aim of establishing the CoP was to get people together on a common platform to share their experiences and learning, which was initiated from the recognition that there is a need to improve community health in general, document and share knowledge, and best practices on community health policy and practice across the world”.

“Collective Learning” in form of developing the learning agenda for community health was one of the key activities that we undertook. The organic development of the community health framework helped us to visualise the community health landscape, which included multiple actors and the relationship between them. This large canvas of players, other than the community health workers has already drawn attention in global discussion. The time and opportunity is right to position the learning agenda of the CoP with the development of the Community Health Roadmap, which the Ministries of Health across multiple countries are in the process of developing. The roadmap is taking account national priorities for a common agenda for investments in community health and a call for reduction in fragmented approach by integrating community health into national human resources, supply chain, and information systems design. Members of this CoP have, also acknowledged these iterative processes of learning. One member mentioned “The discussions from the CoP was taken forward in my country, the experiences shared on the platform assisted me in funding proposal for Cote d’Ivoire. There is a lot of cross-fertilization and sharing of information”. This is a very welcome sign and we hope members to get more benefit by this collective learning.

Moving to next phases based on lessons learnt

So, where are we moving from here as we plan to embark phase- II of CH-CoP ? Some ideas have been generated through the year-end evaluation, the discussions with different partners as well as the self-assessment. Last year we used primarily the digital forum for the activities, but nothing can be more beneficial than to have face-to-face meetings through co-organising events.  This year we will like to take the opportunity of international conferences like ICHC-II, CHW symposium to consolidate our network, build trust and relationship.

We also acknowledge that we operated at the global level, so a deep dive to country specific learning’s is another area that we plan to build.  This has been rightly pointed by one of our member “The CoP operates at a very high or global level without translating the implementation at a national and local community level. There is a need for very strong country presence with country representatives who learn from the CoP and provide feedback whatever they learnt from their countries”.

Figure 2: Members from different levels of the CH landscape (January 2019)

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We also want more co- production. This can entail synthesize evidence, success stories for each thematic area of the community health framework as form of a compendium, briefs, and case studies. The evolving areas of community health also calls for using the expertise of this platform to develop a measurable matrix for community health, which could allow the development of a typology to classify various approaches and programs.

Knowledge management is also one of the key mandates of this CoP. So we would like the Community page on Collectivity to be one-stop shop for toolkits, resource materials, operational guidelines for wide range of stakeholders interested in Community Health. We will also like to encourage the development of innovative forms of communication material and practices to enhance sharing of experiences and good practices with community actors.

We don’t want to act as stand alone platform, so coming year we want to develop structured collaboration with similar networks, both at global and country levels, so there is more traction in terms of sharing resources, co-hosting webinars and conference panels. The aim is to build strong alliance with well-established community health actors both at global and country level for more cohesive resources sharing and creating topical interactions.

Never have there been a more exciting time and opportunity to advance the collective learning of community health. The CH-CoP is rightly positioned to advance the cross-country learning on how to define and strengthen the various domains of community health. Tapping the vast amount of collective knowledge and skills available from country-specific experiences, the global health community can contribute in a significant manner to advancing this shared knowledge. The importance of community health has also been echoed in the 40th anniversary of Alma-Ata statement “To keep primary care close to communities, which is responsive to local needs, delivered by multi-disciplinary teams who are equipped to manage the majority of health issues without referral”.

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