Our Newborn Care Course Pilot: An Update

September 25, 2023

We recently launched a feasibility pilot of our newborn care-focused course for health workers in Nigeria. We’re exploring an approach in which we work closely with local stakeholders to develop and implement relevant and useful health workforce training that aligns with the strategic priorities of the government of Nigeria. Here’s a bit more background on the course and what we aim to learn from this pilot.

The course

The course teaches care that every newborn should receive immediately after birth. This is a particularly critical window of time because there are a number of best clinical practices that, when implemented, avert many readily preventable newborn deaths. For more details about these best practices, check out our post on the evidence behind HealthLearn! 

The Newborn Care course:

  • is for health workers who staff primary health centers - particularly nurses, midwives, community health extension workers, and doctors,

  • closely follows published guidance from Nigeria’s federal Ministry of Health,

  • engages health workers in short (~15-minute) modules, with each module presenting a realistic clinical case, and

  • takes ~2-3 hours to finish.

While we don’t rely much on video in our courses, we’re very fortunate to have access to high-quality videos licensed from the Global Health Media Project that demonstrate some of the most important clinical practices we teach in the course.

The platform

We offer the course on a modified version of the LearnWorlds learning management system. We’ve made a number of adaptations to the platform to optimize it for health workers in our target audience, the vast majority of whom access our courses on a smartphone. Specifically, we:

  • removed many unnecessary menus and buttons to eliminate distractions,

  • enlarged the text to make it more readable on a phone,

  • andadded a custom login that relies on WhatsApp, rather than email.

The custom login was built by two amazing volunteer software engineers. Ben Hamilton-Olsen developed the application, and Karl Keefer has been helping to update and maintain the system. The login process is very simple. Health workers enter their phone number, receive a WhatsApp message with a four-digit verification code, enter the code, and then they are logged into the site. Most health workers in Nigeria use WhatsApp for routine communication. The new login eliminates passwords, and many of our learners report to us that they don’t frequently use email, so we anticipate that this makes for a better sign up experience.

The pilot

Our main objective is to assess feasibility of delivering the Newborn Care course on our platform to our target audience of health workers. We’re working closely with three different local NGOs who are implementing the pilot:

  • Thriving Up Initiative (Abuja),

  • The Taimaka Project (Gombe), and

  • DevProNet International (Kano).

These implementing partners lead the pilot in their respective states. They liaise with local and state governments to ensure appropriate approvals and they work closely with health facility leadership and the health workers themselves to ensure course uptake. Each of the partners is also offering a small incentive (mobile internet data) to the health workers who take the course. HealthLearn plays the role of a technical partner - we offer a course that has been through rigorous content review and quality assurance, we host the course on our site, and we support partners and learners as needed. We are working closely with government stakeholders at the national level. The Newborn Care Unit at Nigeria’s federal Ministry of Health validated the contents of the course and gave approval for the pilot, and we’re also in regular contact with a team at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to update them on the pilot.

What we hope to learn

Whenever we offer a course, we aim to learn something new, thereby activating a “virtuous cycle” of continuous quality improvement. Here are a few of the key things we hope to learn in this pilot.

  1. Reach and uptake: In previous pilots that used this training methodology, we didn’t have a clear sense of our reach. We always knew exactly how many health workers enrolled in a course and completed it, but we didn’t know how many health workers in total were asked to take the course. In this pilot, each implementing partner has a group of ~100 health workers who are being specifically asked to take the course. By the end of this pilot, we should know how many of these health workers take the course, which will give us a better sense of the potential reach of our courses.

  2. Feasibility and usability: This is the first time we’re offering WhatsApp-based login and registration. We would like to see how well this works and use data from the platform to identify ways to further improve the learning experience. In addition, we’re measuring learning gains to understand how the course impacts health workers’ knowledge of the lifesaving practices we teach.

  3. Feedback for improvement: We also collect qualitative feedback from health workers to understand how we can improve the course and the platform. This feedback is particularly important to help us map out and prioritize the improvements we need to make as we scale up our work and our impact.

Looking forward

We’re running this pilot for several weeks. When the pilot wraps up, we anticipate summarizing the key results and conclusions and sharing this with our NGO and government partners. Based on what we find, we’ll either pause and pivot (rethink our approach and make major changes), or tweak our plans and accelerate forward to the next phase of the work.

This post was updated on November 14, 2023.