Authors Share Best Practices for Global Health Training in a Post-COVID-19 Era

October 4, 2021
Global Health Training Best Practices

By Karina Antenucci

A recent paper published in Annals of Global Health, presents five modern, guiding principles that support the effective and ethical delivery of curricula for global health learners in a post-COVID-19 era. These strategies aim to meet the educational needs of senior health professionals in particular. Scott J.N. McNabb, PhD, research professor, is lead author on the article.  

The authors note that during the COVID-19 pandemic, distinct gaps in the public health architecture have appeared and barriers to public health training are compounded by embargos on travel and remote activities. To address these gaps, workforce development is crucial and training needs for global health professionals are widespread and immediate. What’s more, the successful delivery of learning curricula must overcome inequities, such as access to information, transportation, gender prejudice, and insufficient mentorship, as well as COVID protocols.

“The word ‘apocalypse’ means a ‘revelation,’ ‘that which is uncovered,’ or ‘to pull the lid off,’” says McNabb. “The COVID pandemic has uncovered deep, global public health infrastructure gaps, such as brain drain, universal access to the internet and scientific information, and old-school, unethical worldviews like colonialization and gender bias. But it also reveals new opportunities to be and do better, such as servant-leadership training and modern scientific communication through multi-communication, online e-learning.”

The paper points out that global health is as varied, unique, and complex as the professionals within it, and trainings need to be dynamic to respond to the wide breadth and depth of experience and expertise, as well as knowledge variances.

Harnessing their collective experience in global health education and leadership training, McNabb and co-authors outline the following strategies: 

  1. Promote Individualized Learning

The global health workforce has pressing and continually evolving training needs. Therefore, meaningful engagement must meet learners where they are and support them so that their training becomes an advantage to their work-life and work-based priorities. What’s more, maximizing their autonomy allows learners to develop skills critical for lifelong learning.

  1. Provide Experiential Learning

Massive open online courses, while widely available, have been limited in impact due to the one-dimensional nature of content delivery. Blended e-learning programs that utilize a combination of in-person and online training provide learners a richer experience. The best strategy incorporates an applied assignment that runs the duration of the e-learning program, enabling participants to address relevant challenges to their jobs and work to address a topic of significance for their own careers. 

  1. Mentor … Mentor … Mentor

Mentorship provides guidance, encouragement, and support from experienced professionals to the less experienced and can contribute to the personalization of educational experiences. The difficulties global health educational initiatives face in incorporating mentorship programs include the lack of availability of on-site mentors and differing cultures and perceptions of professional mentorship. These barriers can be overcome, at least in part, by pragmatic program design, clear delineation of roles, and the incorporation of information and communication technology. Online mentoring strategies can be adopted to overcome the limitations of local availability of mentors. 

  1. Reinforce Learning Through Assessment

In global health, knowledge is not the only domain that drives competency. Other valid measures of assessment that capture acquisition of skills, attitudes, and behavior should be incorporated into training programs. One strategy is to obtain a 360-degree assessment, which generally incorporates self-assessment, as well as feedback from supervisors, peers, and mentees into the assessment strategy.

  1. Information and Communication Technology and Tools to Support Learning 

A learner’s e-learning experience is tied to internet access and tools, devices, and dedicated space and time away from other obligations and distractions. Synchronous and asynchronous multi-communication e-learning supports convenience and meeting the immediate needs of the participant. E-learning makes it possible to collaborate and communicate with one another in different spaces, at different times

This work was supported by the Afya Bora Consortium fellowship, which is funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the STAR project funded through Cooperative Agreement No. 7200AA18CA00001 by the United States Agency for International Development.