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.