Evaluation of a Distance-Based Training Program on Health Information Management and Applied Epidemiology (HIMAE) in South Africa
Cowan, Anna C.
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Background: Health Information Systems (HIS) are used to provide accurate, timely and reliable data for disease surveillance, policy-making, program evaluation, and resource allocation at all levels of a national health system. One reason for poor performance of the South Africa HIS is a lack of appropriately trained health care workers. E-learning has been identified as one feasible option to address this gap. This paper evaluates a distance-based Health Information Management and Applied Epidemiology (HIMAE) course designed to train front-line health care and public health workers in South Africa. Methods: The HIMAE course was piloted in 3 provinces in South Africa. Participants alternated between e-learning and workbook modalities. Pre- and post-test scores were used to evaluate change in knowledge over ten modules. Twelve focus group discussions (FGD) were conducted to assess participant attitudes towards course content and delivery. Descriptive statistics and t-tests were calculated. FGDs were coded inductively and deductively and analyzed for common themes. Results: A total of 32 participants took part in the pilot. Nine participants were from Free State, eight from KwaZulu-Natal and 15 from Mpumalanga province. Sixteen participants were nurses, ten were data capturers, three were community health workers (CHW) and three from other cadres. Most participants (n=23, 72%) completed all ten modules. Overall, participants’ test-scores improved by 29.7 points on a 200-point scale. Participants felt that content was relevant and useful to their work, but some identified limited computer skills as a barrier to the e-learning modality. Participants preferred e-learning over workbooks. Conclusion: Overall, HIS knowledge significantly improved health worker knowledge in HIS. Participants felt that the content of the modules was relevant, applicable, and useful to their daily work. Our findings suggest that the HIMAE course may be an effective tool in contributing to a strong HIS in South Africa, bridging health care workers’ knowledge gaps in understanding, producing and using quality data.
- Global health