Lonnie Hackett (cohort 2017-18) founded Healthy Learners to support health and learning of school children. Healthy Learners has established a school-based community health model to train and support teachers as school health workers (SHW) and directly connect schools with local Ministry of Health (MoH) health facilities to transform schools into access points for child and adolescent healthcare.
They help more than 250k children, as they now support all public primary schools in the capital. The Zambian government has adopted Healthy Learner’s model as national policy through its School Health and Nutrition Guidelines, and they are currently working with the Ministries of Health and Education to scale nationally.
The lessons I learned during my time at Oxford were critical to the programmatic and policy wins we have achieved.
During the course, I became inspired to transition all of our systems from paper based to digital. We achieved this through working with our tech partner, ThinkMD, to develop an advanced clinical assessment mobile health (mHealth) platform that enables our teacher school health workers to perform accurate and robust clinical assessments and appropriately identify those who are sick, what illnesses they may have, and if they need to be referred to a local MoH clinic. This transition has gone better than I could have imagined, and it has been critical to our ability to successfully scale.
We are able to leverage data collected through the software for user and program monitoring and evaluation, epidemiology monitoring of key diseases, early detection of outbreaks and local response initiatives. We recently were contracted by the CDC and MoH to use this data to transform schools into syndromic surveillance hubs.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, Healthy Learners was able to quickly leverage their existing operations and technology to add immediate and direct value to the Zambia Government in supporting primary schools, school-aged children, teachers, and proximate primary care clinics.
COVID-19 specific content was added to their information dissemination to SHWs, trainings, and clinical assessment technology.
They optimised the existing data analytics activities to fully realize the concept of public schools as population health and have been implementing monitoring activities alongside the Zambian Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education since April.
When the President of Zambia announced in mid-May that schools were to re-open on the first of June, the Ministry of Education called upon Healthy Learners to lead the development of their policies and guidelines for COVID-19.
We are extremely proud that, as a fairly young and small NGO, the government trusted us to help lead them during this critical time. We were recently highlighted alongside the World Food Program by the USAID/UNICEF supported Child Health Task Force for our work on COVID-19.
It is safe to say that we have made more progress and are having a larger impact sooner than I ever could have imagined. The course on IHTM expanded my thinking, broadened my perspective and enhanced the tools a skills in my repertoire to lead the organization during this critical time. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity.