There is “no health without a workforce,” states a 2013 World Health Organization report on human resources for health. Common challenges faced by the health workforce in developing countries include acute shortages, skills-mix imbalances, retention, motivation, and limited access to education and training. Despite research demonstrating a clear link between health workforce density and the improvement of key health indicators, the health workforce is all too often overlooked. Many developing countries are now also faced with the “double burden of disease,” fighting both the familiar communicable diseases such as malaria and the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases caused by changes in lifestyle.
To tackle these challenges, policy makers are adopting innovative approaches such as distance learning and the use of technology. Amref Health Africa, an international African organization based in Kenya, has been using the technology of the day to build the capacity of health workers across sub-Saharan Africa through channels such as radio, eLearning and mobile learning, known as m-learning.
As Amref Health Africa’s eHealth Programme Manager, I have the pleasure and privilege of taking “Jibu,” a pilot project for a mobile nursing education app, and expanding it into a full-scale program in Kenya over the next three years. In Kenya, health workers are required to continuously update their skills to remain relevant in the ever changing health landscape. To maintain their professional licenses each year, they are required to accrue continuing professional development points from accredited institutions The points can be earned through attending conferences, publishing research and taking courses, for example. Jibu offers a cost-effective way to make continuing education widely available to Kenyan nurses who are able to use their own phones to access the content.