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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 387-394

Seeing, Thinking and Acting against Malaria— A New Approach to Health Worker Training in Rural Gambia

1 School of Indigenous Health Studies, University of Sydney, Australia
2 Centre for Innovation against Malaria, Medical Research Council Laboratories, Gambia, The

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

Context: In the Gambia, West Africa, Malaria is a major cause of death among children in rural areas. It has been estimated that in one division in the country malaria accounts for 40% of all deaths in children aged between one and 4 years. Most malaria cases are managed at home assisted by primary healthcare workers. The strategic plan of Gambia's National Malaria Control Programme includes improved training and supervision of all health care providers, at all levels, and increased community awareness in order to reduce the malaria burden by 50% before 2007. Issue: A malaria in-service training program for Community Health Nurses (CHNs) working at village level was piloted in 2004. The program includes a computerbased training (CBT) package, the first of its kind for health professionals in Gambia. The education program is part of a larger initiative, funded by the Gates Malaria Partnership, that aims to increase community involvement in malaria control. The objective of the course is to enable CHNs to facilitate the change process. The curriculum was informed by a reference group and stakeholder input. Interviews and evaluation forms were used to gather information about learner experience and learning preferences. Analysis: The CBT package was well received. Learners reported wanting more computer instruction, but felt they had gained confidence. There was resistance from other health professionals regarding the development of information technology skills in CHNs. This related to the perceived role and status of CHNs, as well as confidence in their ability. Some modifications of the CBT package were necessary, including the reworking of some activities and language. Lessons learned: There are issues related to sustainability and resource implications that need to be addressed. Opportunities exist to expand e-learning in the Gambia for preservice CHNs and other professionals. An investigation into the viability of reproducing this module as a generic planning tool for allied health workers and other extension workers at community level will be undertaken.

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