TechNet-21 - Forum

This forum provides a place for members to ask questions, share experiences, coordinate activities, and discuss recent developments in immunization.
  1. Moderator
  2. Programme management
  3. Thursday, 23 December 2010
Written by: Philippe Jaillard and Aristide Aplogan, AMP Over the past eight years, almost 400 district medical officers in 11 African countries[sup][1][/sup] have earned professional (masters level) diplomas through a unique practical inter-university program called EPIVAC. The program’s name is derived from the words EPIdemiology and VACcinology, and its wide range of topics, includes epidemiology, vaccinology, applied computing, and management of health programs. Together this combination of scientific and managerial skills gives graduates the knowledge required to manage vaccine programs at the district level. The degree program was specifically developed for district medical officers, physicians responsible for achieving public health goals for a population of between 150,000 and 300,000 people. Though these physicians are often competent clinicians, they are not necessarily trained to handle the managerial, technical, and programmatic requirements of their complex jobs. Recognizing the need for relevant, on-the-job training, EPIVAC developed a program that minimizes introductory coursework and requires students to apply their learning directly to their individual context. After a four-week residential program, students return to their workplace and complete the remainder of the coursework under the supervision of a tutor. In addition, two national supervisors are selected in each country program (one specializing in vaccinology and the other in management issues) to spend concentrated time with the student working on one or two topics, such as vaccine management, human resource management, or epidemiology. Together, the student and supervisors develop a plan to address the topic; the student then implements the plan and the supervisor assists with an evaluation after eight weeks. Students are also required to complete a thesis which generates data and operational research on topics of global importance in their workplace. A unique feature of this program is that it matches EPIVAC students with supervisors currently working in the students’ areas of interest. This year, for example, Optimize staff from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva are directly supervising two thesis topics: “Strengths, weaknesses, and cost efficiency of integrating the supply chain for medical supplies at the district level,” and, “Evaluation of data quality and immunization coverage in the health district of Fana, Mali.” The main goal of the training program is to have students put their knowledge into action. In the field of logistics for health, students take courses in supply chain management, equipment, and waste management. Studies on the quality of vaccines throughout the supply chain have made it possible to take drastic measures not only at the district level but across the country to improve conditions of storage and transport of vaccines. Although students consistently report that the program requires a lot of work, they also say they enjoy the program and appreciate its relevance to their jobs. As graduates they are able to speak confidently about vaccinology and immunization and change the way they manage people, resources, supplies, and systems, beyond the immunization program. A recent evaluation of the program found that key management tools were still being used in districts where students were trained. Even after a student has left a district, they have implemented important changes that are still in place. Similarly, students bring their knowledge to new positions, even when those positions are unrelated to immunization. Currently, 50 students from 9 Francophone African countries are selected each year to participate in the program. Over the next year EPIVAC partners are looking to expand the training within Africa making it available in both French and English. They will also change the structure of the program slightly to improve the impact of the program on performances and better accommodate the ideas and contributions of new funding partners. Those interested in the EPIVAC program are encouraged to join the network and begin collaborating with alumni and other partners directly. EPIVAC is a Sanofi Pasteur (the vaccine branch of Sanofi-Aventis) contribution to the GAVI Alliance. Implemented by the Agence de Médecine Préventive, the program was developed in partnership with national governments of eligible countries and the participating universities, in collaboration with WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Vaccine Fund, and other partners working in Africa. EPIVAC is coordinated with the GAVI Alliance Subregional Working Group and complements other GAVI Alliance support to African countries. The degree, “Organization and Management of Public Immunization Programs in Developing Countries,” is jointly awarded by the universities of Cocody-Abidjan (Côte D’Ivoire) and Paris-Dauphine (France). We invite you to comment on or post a question relating to this article by clicking the “reply” button on this page. You will have to log in or register; the process is very simple. Return to the Optimize newsletter. [sup][1].[/sup] Doctors have been trained from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

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