Leading change from the ground up: 300 Scholars from 51 countries take up the challenge of reducing inequities and improving coverage for immunization

GENEVA, 24 May 2019 (The Geneva Learning Foundation) – The sixteenth cohort from the WHO Scholar programme since 2016, kicking off Monday, aims to transform not one but four guidelines from WHO and UNICEF into action to reduce inequities and improve coverage.

300 immunization professionals from 51 countries were selected by WHO from over 1,500 applicants for this Level 2 Scholar certification. Alongside the course, the programme is also offering a webinar series for which over 2,200 participants have registered.

In six weeks, each Scholar will develop a context-specific action plan, drawing on the guidelines, to the extent that they are relevant and useful, but also on the experience and expertise of their peers.

One third of these new Scholars have direct responsibility for national immunization planning and another third contribute to it, with equal proportions of participants from central and district levels.

The participation of district-level immunization leaders is especially important, as this is “ground zero” where vaccination efforts ultimately succeed or fail. One in four are working at the district level.

UNICEF’s Godwin Mindra, author of the urban inequity tool kit said: “The work that we do at HQ would make no sense if at the country level it’s not translated into practical interventions. That’s why we come back to you at the country level, at the district level”

In the past, immunization training approaches have resorted to broken “cascade” or “training of trainer” models that have failed to produce the change needed to “move the needle” of immunization outcomes.

In the WHO Scholar programme, every course participant has direct access to the best available global experts, in addition to the knowledge contained in the guidelines.

Furthermore, 100 Scholars in the new cohort have more than ten years of immunization experience, providing deep experience and practical knowledge that complements the global guidelines. 

Over half of each cohort volunteers to serve as Accompanists, who form a tightly-knit community of peer tutors, coaches, and mentors to welcome and guide new Scholars.

This course will be offered in French later this year, as the WHO Scholar programme is multi-lingual.

About the WHO Scholar programme

The Geneva Learning Foundation’s Scholar Approach is a state-of-the-art evidence-based package for capability development required to lead complex change. This unique Approach has already been shown to not only enhance competencies but also to foster collaborative implementation of transformative projects that begin as course work and end with impact.

  • WHO has used the Scholar Approach since 2016 to support country-level action planning and capability development to improve immunization outcomes:
  • The WHO Scholar programme’s network is growing rapidly, with 4,467 English speakers and 2,968 Francophones from 90 countries having participated in the programme’s activities.
  • Working together, Scholars have used WHO guidelines to develop more than 2,000 peer-reviewed, context-specific projects, with over 90% reporting that they routinely use what they learned from the programme.
  • Over 400 programme participants have served as Accompanists, supporting their peers and exercising leadership in new ways that challenge failed, conventional training-of-trainer and cascade models.
  • In some countries, Scholars have spontaneously initiated informal, self-led and motivated groupings of professionals operating across agencies that may provide a different kind of lever for systemic change than traditional top-down approaches to addressing immunization challenges.
  • Building on these emergent dynamics, Scholars are now being invited to join the first Impact Accelerator, working with colleagues from their country toward collaborative project implementation.
  • The programme is fully digital, with no upper limit to the number of participants, and has mobilized participants without having to offer per diem, travel, or hotel accommodation.

The WHO Scholar programme is being developed by the Geneva Learning Foundation and its partners for the World Health organization, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

WHO Scholar programme webinar series #1: Establishing and strengthening immunization in the second year of life (2YL)

How do we increase vaccination coverage for all ages with a system almost exclusively designed for newborns and babies?

This blog post is part of a series about the WHO Scholar programme’s webinar series in May and June 2019 about reducing inequities and improving coverage for immunization. Learn more and register for the webinars

GENEVA, 15 May 12019 (The Geneva Learning Foundation) – Over 2,200 immunization professionals from 96 countries registered to participate in the World Health Organization Scholar programme’s first open webinar series on reducing inequities and improving coverage for immunization. The inaugural webinar led by WHO’s Samir Sodha focused on immunization in the second year of life (2YL).

Watch the recording of this WHO Scholar programme webinar

Introducing the series, the World Health Organization’s Diane Chang Blanc reminded participants of the pledge that all individuals and communities should enjoy lives free from vaccine-preventable diseases. “That was part of the vision for the Decade of Vaccines,” she explained. “As we move into the next decade, we want to achieve that collectively as a global community.”

790 Scholars from 37 countries were in attendance, with a third connecting from the district level. 300 of them have been selected by the World Health Organization to participate in the first cohort of the WHO Scholar Level 2 certification in reducing inequities and improving coverage.

By 6 July 2019, this cohort will create hundreds of peer-reviewed, context-specific action plans to improve immunization outcomes, helping to transform WHO guidelines into action.

WHO Technical Officer Samir Sodha explained: “Today’s immunization system is currently almost exclusively designed for a one year old population. We can offer vaccines to a multiple-age population (newborns, pregnant women seniors). But, for each population, we need to develop unique strategies and platforms to get to them.”

Establishing and strengthening immunization in the second year of life offers a first step to establishing a life course approach for immunization “as it doesn’t necessarily require a new platform.” Nevertheless, Samir cautions that expanding coverage to the second year of life is not necessarily straightforward and requires a system-wide approach.

WHO Scholar programme webinar series #2: immunization services throughout the life course

It’s not just about immunization: vaccination as a part of integrated health services

This blog post is part of a series about the WHO Scholar programme’s webinar series in May and June 2019 about reducing inequities and improving coverage for immunization. Learn more and register for the webinars

GENEVA, 16 May 2019 (The Geneva Learning Foundation) – “Your job is not about immunization, not just about a single health topic. There is a wide-range of different health and even non-health topics being covered.”  So Aaron Wallace from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said in his introduction to over 700 immunization Scholars from 33 countries attending the second of six WHO Scholar programme webinars about reducing inequity and improving coverage.

Lead presenter Emily Wootton introduced the World Health Organization’s resource guide for the integration of immunization services throughout the life course. This publication is one of four new global guidelines presented in the webinar series to support Scholars leading change to improve immunization outcomes in their district, region, or country.

Watch the recording of this WHO Scholar programme webinar

“As we move to a life course approach for immunization, if we want to [achieve] impact, we really need to work in a different way. Integration with other programmes is going to become more and more important” added Wootton.

“Strong immunization systems, as part of broader health systems and closely coordinated with other primary health care delivery programmes are essential for achieving immunization goals” explained Emily Wootton.

So how do we integrate the delivery of vaccines along the life course? “Integration requires a global approach and an understanding of each specific context to be efficient” said Aaron Wallace. Wootton and Wallace warned Scholars to be “very careful” about the interventions they choose to integrate and ask themselves whether the changes they propose are going to be acceptable. “Don’t try to do everything all at once.”

WHO defines integrated health services as “health services that are managed and delivered so that people receive a continuum of health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, disease-management, rehabilitation and palliative care services, coordinated across the different levels and sites of care within and beyond the health sector, and according to their needs throughout the life course”.

By 6 July 2019, this new WHO Scholar programme cohort will create hundreds of peer-reviewed, context-specific action plans to improve immunization outcomes, helping to transform four different WHO and UNICEF guidelines into action.“We would love these projects that people develop now to be implemented in the future,” concludes Emily Wootton.

About the WHO Scholar programme webinar series and course to reduce inequities and improve coverage

  • Over 2,000 immunization professionals from 96 countries have registered to participate in this open webinar series, with more than a third of active participants working at the district level.
  • 300 have been selected by the World Health Organization to participate in the first cohort of the WHO Scholar Level 2 certification in reducing inequities and improving coverage.
  • By 6 July 2019, this cohort will create hundreds of peer-reviewed, context-specific action plans to improve immunization outcomes, helping to transform WHO guidelines into action.

Making bright spots happen: WHO immunization Scholars from 90 countries commit to achieving impact

GENEVA, 15 May 2019 (The Geneva Learning Foundation) – “Bright spots” in routine immunization are stories about immunization programmes that have successfully improved performance at a subnational level in LMICs and LICs.

We can wait for them to happen. We can try to find them.

Or we can support those who make them happen.

On 15 May 2019, 189 Scholar Alumni from the latest cohort of the World Health Organization’s course on routine immunization planning united to commit to achieving impact towards the global goals for immunization.

Every Scholar has already developed a practical plan to improve routine immunization in their context, and has helped their colleagues improve their plans.

Now they are taking action to move from ideas to implementation.

Over one-third of Scholar Alumni work at the district level, where children live and where immunization outcomes actually happen.

They are part of a larger group of over 1,000 Alumni of the WHO Scholar programme. The first impact evaluation of the programme found a surprising number of Alumni who documented improved immunization coverage as a result of implementing projects that began as course work.

By actively supporting each other, Scholars hope to multiply such individual success stories into a collective effort where course work is transformed into implementation on the road to impact.

On 22 May, Scholars will reconvene, this time to hear first-hand such success stories from 60 WHO Scholar programme Alumni.

Over 400 Alumni are already actively supporting colleagues as Accompanists, peer tutors and coaches who demonstrate exceptional leadership and genuine care for colleagues who, when they first met, were complete strangers from halfway around the world.

This inaugural meeting is a milestone in the Geneva Learning Foundation’s project development to establish the first Impact Accelerator, a radically new approach to achieve impact better and faster, together.