Published: 28-09-2023 13:00 | Updated: 28-09-2023 17:43

KI and partners promote innovation among health managers in Sub-Saharan Africa

Karolinska Institutet, in partnership with universities in Sub-Saharan Africa, has for the last three years implemented an impactful training programme on innovation for managers within the health sector. “We really need these kinds of efforts to achieve sustainable health. The programme empowers the participants to work together in addressing complex challenges,” says Dr. Rawlance Ndejjo, lead of one of programme's modules.

Dr. Rawlance Ndejjo, lecturer and researcher at Makerere University. Photo: N/A

The programme, called Managing innovation for sustainable health (MISH), has been running since 2020, and targets managers within health and other relevant sectors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Uganda. The emphasis is on enhancing their capacity to successfully collaborate across sectors and using innovative approaches to strengthening both preventive and curative health care in the countries. There is a strong focus on creating new ways of learning and collaborating.

Dr. Rawlance Ndejjo, lecturer and researcher at Makerere University in Uganda, leads the second module on multisectoral collaboration and implementation science. The covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of a holistic and multisectoral approach to the delivery of health, he explains.

“Multisectoral approach is important in trying to solve complex challenges. We really need these kinds of efforts to achieve sustainable health. Implementation science helps us bridge the gaps between evidence and practice so that we can move faster in terms of achieving the health gains we want,” he says.

Man speaking a conference
Rawlance Ndejjo speaking at a conference. Photo: N/A

Addressing a multitude of health challenges

The health challenges in Uganda and neighbouring countries are broad and can be defined in many ways, according to Dr. Rawlance Ndejjo.

“We experience epidemics of infectious diseases such as Ebola and Marburg, some of them which affect the entire region. At the same time, we have to deal with issues related to environmental disasters and climate change. These are complex challenges that cannot be solved within just one sector”, he says.

The MISH programme empowers the participants to work together in addressing these complex challenges. As an example, Dr Rawlance Ndejjo highlights a project carried out by a course participant in Uganda who worked for an organisation that provides support for HIV-infected persons. Initially the organisation had separate programmes for nutrition support, women’s empowerment, prevention of mother-child transmission and care for orphans. On realising the leverage that collaboration could provide, the course participant initiated joint planning- and coordination meetings within the organisation.

“He argued that the same women needed all the different programmes, and that by integrating some aspects they would achieve better results,” says Dr. Rawlance Ndejjo.

By targeting different sectors and areas of expertise, MISH reaches out to a wide range of stakeholders.

“Within their different areas, all the participants are making decisions that impact health. Personally it is really a pleasure to see how they start seeing things differently during the programme. With time we should be able to see small changes happening in communities, villages, districts and countries”, says Dr. Rawlance Ndejjo.

How is this programme and your module relevant in Uganda and neighbouring countries?

“One of the things I love about this module is that it is universally relevant. Dealing with the covid-19 pandemic it was obvious that we needed knowledge and skills from many different sectors: education, transport, water supply, the sanitation systems, food and nutrition, and economy.”

What is needed in the local context to scale up this approach?

“At first we need to identify the relevant stakeholders. We also need to adopt this kind of thinking early. If students from public health, social sciences, and engineering among others learn to work together as a team, later it will be easier for them to work together as professionals. With capacity-strengthening initiatives such as MISH, we are able to re-orient the academy to adopt multisectoral collaboration in the curriculum. Many academic disciplines today work in silos. To reach a critical mass we need to train the trainers.”

About Dr. Rawlance Ndejjo

Occupation: Lecturer and researcher, Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health, Makerere University. Leads the second module of the MISH programme; Multisectoral Collaboration and Implementation Science.

The best things about MISH: Hearing about the projects the participants do following the transformative thinking instilled by MISH.

How important is the partnership with the local universities?
The local universities provide contextual examples and identify suitable field sites for experiential learning. They identify resource persons from different sectors including policymakers and the civil society. As the programme is virtual, the local universities also provide day-to-day support to course participants.

About Managing innovation for sustainable health (MISH)

Managing Innovation for Sustainable Health is funded by the Swedish Institute through the SI Public Sector Innovation Programme, which targets universities and  colleges. The training programme is carried out in cooperation with key public sector actors in low- and middle- income countries with the aim of promoting innovation and sustainability in partnering countries. 

The training is based on the 2030 Agenda and the aim of the programme is for participants to develop their capacity to successfully collaborate across sectors and use an innovative approach to strengthening both preventive and curative health care in the DRC, Uganda and Somalia. The programme is developed and organised by Karolinska Institutet, Makerere University, Benadir University, University of Kinshasa School of Public Health and the innovation company Tinkr within the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health.