Health program managers and service providers in Malawi often lack access to up-to-date and relevant information. Health care professionals responding to a K4Health health information needs assessment reported that even when information exists, it is scattered and difficult to find. The K4Health Malawi Pilot Project was implemented between 2010 and 2012 to address these information gaps and to improve the exchange and use of knowledge on family planning/reproductive health and HIV/AIDS at the national, district, and community levels.
In order to strengthen family planning and HIV/AIDS services, the K4Health Malawi Pilot Project focused on three key intervention areas:
- At the national level, the project established the Knowledge Management Taskforce to manage and disseminate technical information, including centralized “toolkits,” or electronic libraries of essential resources. Four Malawi Toolkits on family planning and HIV/AIDS topics include information to support the implementation of national policies and standards, communication materials in the local language (Chichewa), and other locally relevant materials.
- At the district level, two District Learning Centers (DLCs) at hospitals in Nkhotakota and Salima provide a range of resources, including print materials and opportunities for face-to-face training and networking. The DLCs also house computers with free access to online and CD-ROM-based learning, including the Malawi Toolkits.
- At the community level, the project worked in collaboration with Frontline SMS and the Ministry of Health to create an SMS-based mobile phone network between district health centers and community health workers (CHWs). District health centers use the mobile phone network to alert CHWs about new resources, training opportunities, and changes in protocols through SMS messages. In addition, CHWs send SMS messages to the district management team to report important events such as stock-outs and request specific technical information, for example, about contraceptive side effects.
- Conducted a health information needs assessment among health care professionals in Lilongwe and three districts between July and August 2009. Key informants included directors, managers, and health care providers working in family planning/reproductive health and HIV/AIDS within the public and NGO sectors at the central and district levels. K4Health held a workshop to disseminate the findings in December 2009.
- Distributed 663 mobile phones and solar chargers to CHWs in Salima and Nkhotakota districts, serving a catchment area of 652,326 Malawians. CHWs have sent more than 1,000 SMS messages on family planning and HIV/AIDS to the district hub and the district management team has sent twice as many messages to the CHWs. The mobile phone network has provided prompt responses to emergencies, for example, high-risk pregnancies, and outbreaks such as measles, subsequently saving lives. It also has reduced stock-outs among CHWs.
- Published four Malawi Toolkits—on Family Planning, Young People and Reproductive Health, Maternal and Neonatal Health, and HIV/AIDS.
- Established two DLCs with 11 computers, staffed by K4Health and the Ministry of Health. More than 5,000 people have visited the DLCs to receive basic computer training, search for medical information, use the K4Health Malawi Toolkits, and access print health information resources.
- Conducted Net-Mapping exercises in May 2010 and July 2011. This allowed the team to get before and after snapshots of the information network within Malawi and to track changes in the network over the life of the project.
- Transferred management of all knowledge management interventions to the Health Education Unit of the Ministry of Health in July 2011. K4Health continued to support the Ministry of Health in the oversight and implementation of these activities through December 2011.
Project Duration: January 2010 – June 2011; sustainability activities continued until December 2011
Funding: U.S. Agency for International Development
Partners: USAID, Management Sciences for Health, Malawi Ministry of Health