Introducing HealthLearn: Everything You Need To Know

April 30, 2023


What is HealthLearn?

HealthLearn is a nonprofit that provides simple, engaging, case-based online learning to health workers in developing countries. We focus on teaching straightforward clinical practices that, when implemented, have a substantial and proven impact on health outcomes. All of our courses are based on guidance from national governments and the World Health Organization.

How does HealthLearn reach health workers?

We work directly with governments and NGOs to help upskill their health workforces. We support existing organizations to provide the best possible online training to the health workers they serve.

How much does it cost?

HealthLearn is free to health workers in developing countries.


What subjects or topics does HealthLearn teach?

We are starting with a course on basic, lifesaving care of newborns, but we aim to quickly expand to other causes of preventable deaths that place a large burden on primary care systems in developing countries.


How does the learning process work? 

We’ve made HealthLearn as simple and easy to use as possible. Our courses can be taken on a mobile phone with a low-bandwidth connection. The learning experience is inspired by Duolingo: rather than passively watching videos, health workers engage actively by answering questions and receiving feedback on realistic clinical cases.


Does HealthLearn improve health outcomes?

The short answer is – we think so, but we don’t know for sure! A somewhat longer answer is:

  • GiveWell has found that in-person training of health workers in newborn care can save lives,

  • We have a new online learning approach that we’ve already shown can effectively reach and train many health workers in developing countries,

  • We believe this approach can be scaled to reach tens of thousands of health workers, and

  • Our modeling suggests that when our training reaches thousands of health workers, it could could cost-effectively save lives.

As we grow and train more health workers, we are committed to evaluating our work to determine whether HealthLearn can improve public health outcomes when it is offered at scale.

I’m skeptical about the effectiveness of online learning – does it actually work?

Contrary to popular sentiment, head-to-head comparisons of online and in-person training demonstrate similar learning outcomes for adult learners. By evaluating courses that use our learning methodology, we’ve already proven that we can train thousands of health workers in Africa with high completion rates and strong learning gains. While there certainly are limitations to teaching online, our early successes hint at the potential of this approach when applied at scale.


I think something like this is already being done – aren’t you reinventing the wheel?

There are a lot of online learning opportunities for health workers. A few features differentiate our approach:

  • A focus on the greatest burden of disease: many platforms offer courses that cut across many different tiers and levels of the health system. We exclusively focus on the greatest burden of disease and we focus on primary health care, where we believe we can have the greatest impact.

  • Learner-centered design: the entire learning experience is designed to be simple, intuitive and accessible on a smartphone with a low-bandwidth connection.

  • Country-specific guidance: we work country-by-country to ensure that courses align perfectly with country guidelines. 

  • Science of learning and behavioral insights: we’ve deliberately designed each step in the learning experience to leverage research on what works to maximize learning and engagement.

We’re not trying to reinvent technology solutions that already exist. We currently use licensed platforms to offer our courses. We anticipate there may be a need to develop custom technology solutions in the future.

Why do this now?

We believe that the time is right due to a confluence of factors:

  • A massive and ongoing increase in mobile device ownership and internet access in the countries where we work,

  • Proof-of-concept from pilots we have run that we can reach and train our target audience of health workers in primary care, and

  • Availability of off-the-shelf technologies that allow us to deliver a high-quality learning experience at low cost.

Support us

How can I help?

  • Volunteer: we're particularly keen to find collaborators who have experience in technology, global health, and medicine

  • Partner with us: we're always looking for NGOs and governments who are interested in implementing our training

  • Donate: US-based contributions are tax-deductible

Or feel free to reach out to share your ideas and feedback! Send us an email at