Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A Health Systems Strengthening project between the Mildmay Mission Hospital and the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College delivers pioneering HIV services.


Andrew Main describes the life changing work that the health partnership between Mildmay Mission Hospital and the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College are doing for those affected by HIV and AIDS.
When I think of Tanzania I think of Africa’s highest mountain - the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro that attracts so many visitors to the region and forms an imposing backdrop to the town of Moshi. I think of a people, warm and friendly, and proud of a rich cultural heritage. I also think of those challenged by the effects of HIV/AIDS in a land where the prevalence rate is 5.6% and 1.4 million infected people (2009 est.)  
Mildmay International delivers pioneering HIV services, and in Tanzania the focus is on training and health systems strengthening, in particular for orphans, vulnerable children and prisoners. The partnership with the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical College (KCMC) in Moshi supports a diploma course focusing on health systems strengthening. The programme is based on Mildmay’s own course, validated by the University of Manchester, and on our experience of facilitating a similar programme in the Kenya Medical Training Colleges.  
As a health and social care educator, with many years’ experience in nursing education and education management, I share my knowledge and experience as joint project leader with my colleague, the Dean of the School of Nursing at KCMC. I have learned much through the partnership and get satisfaction and motivation from seeing the achievements of the students and the contribution they make to their communities as a result of the course.
With the support of funding through THET, Mildmay has supported the development of the infrastructure at KCMC with up to date text books and a computer suite giving students access to the internet.
Teaching and learning workshops focusing on adult approaches to learning for KCMC staff have been shared with teachers from other faculties. Staff have also improved their knowledge of HIV in order to teach the programme. The Dean says that the whole process has been an ‘eye opener’.
The approach is appreciated by students who in turn use the knowledge and approaches in their own work. They also share their learning with professional colleagues, as one student illustrated when he told me that he ‘shares his knowledge with his fellow priests’.
Another, working in Karanga Prison, Moshi, set up a support group for HIV positive prisoners. Using Action Learning learned through the course he facilitates prisoners to address their own issues. He also set up an outreach service for community prison workers and prisoners families to provide food for the families.
Whilst KCMC benefits from Mildmay’s practical experience of supporting communities to manage the challenges of the disease, Mildmay has been able to sponsor a number of course participants from its own key project areas, and benefits from the academic training these health workers receive.
This is a very important project with great potential to support health systems development not only for those living with or affected by HIV but also to meet wider health care needs of the community. Whilst the course clearly strengthens Mildmay’s work it also has a wider reach in terms of capacity building in the country and KCMC is in strong position to cascade the course throughout Tanzania.