Health systems depend on the crucial role that health workers play. However, many health systems are facing acute shortages and inequitable distribution of skilled health workers that impact the delivery of essential health services. Coupled with the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems are grappling with unprecedented challenges: risk of COVID-19 transmission, disruption of essential services, widespread misinformation, and an already overburdened health workforce.
Country health systems need to equip their health workforce of the changing dynamics of the COVID-19 response and on updates to clinical guidelines while also empowering them with the skills and tools to effectively communicate with the community they serve. UNICEF and partners have therefore been exploring opportunities to strengthen the learning systems for frontline health workers (FHWs), particularly for those serving hard-to-reach areas and for vulnerable populations.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple organizations developed or made available relevant digital training resources to better equip frontline health workers (FHWs) directly involved in patient care to address the pandemic. One of these products is the COVID-19 Digital Classroom. Developed by the Community Health Academy and consortium partners, the COVID-19 Digital Classroom is a collective of international organizations with expertise critical to slowing and stopping the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, other groups such as the Stanford Center for Health Education and openWHO made available training resources addressing various facets of the pandemic, including delivery and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. UNICEF's Digital Health and Information Systems Unit has leveraged these existing openly-licensed training content packages to create an online repository of 9-courses that are ready to deploy on low bandwidth digital channels.
With the funding from Johnson & Johnson, US Centers of Disease Control and the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), UNICEF has sourced and digitized a health worker training content library that can be deployed on a variety of digital channels, including SMS, Social Media Messaging Apps (i.e., WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Telegram), and other app-based learning management systems.
Create Relevant Content
The first three COVID-19 training courses were pilot tested on SMS, Moodle, Telegram, and Internet of Good Things with 543 CHWs in four countries: Liberia, Chad, DRC, and Togo. In July 2021, countries in West and Central Africa (WCAR) were facilitated to localize, validate, and deploy courses on the COVID-19 vaccine with 1194 community health workers. The content is being expanded to other districts and other countries in the region, where at least one country will be evaluated to determine program outputs demonstrated in improved COVID-19 response and vaccine delivery. UNICEF HQ and Middle East and North Africa Regional Office (MENA) is also collaborating with WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) and UNFPA Arab States Regional Office (ASRO) to approve the content both in English and Arabic and avail these courses with an added RMCAH component to countries in the region.
This resource is available for anyone to use and adapt for non-commercial purposes. These digital assets aim to support health workers on the ground with accurate and digestible messaging that they can readily deploy to the communities in their care.
It is important to note that, while this content library provides a generalized overview of COVID-19 prevention and protection measures that are widely applicable to a variety of contexts and circumstances, the course material does not account for everything, especially as the health community is still learning day-to-day about the virus and its impact. Health workers and their supervisors should continue to familiarize themselves with their individual context and consider their national or global guidelines on eLearning to best customize the training content for their community’s specific needs.