Akros recently hosted 14 undergraduate Montana State University (MSU) students in Zambia from May 14 to June 11, 2015. The students were enrolled in a course titled “Zambia: Community and Family Health,” taught by Professor Wendy Bianchini Morrison of the Health and Human Development department at MSU.
“I approached Akros management a year and a half ago with the idea for this course,” said Morrison. “I wanted to bring MSU students to Zambia to expose them to international community health work. Akros management was very open to the idea and expressed interest in collaborating on the course.” She reported that Akros was appealing because it is an established organization in Zambia that has strong relationships with the government, local ministries and communities across the country, and implements public health initiatives that use data and research to increase the efficacy of their interventions.
The three stories below were written by students from Montana State University during their time in Zambia.
The creators of DHIS2 at the University of Oslo highlighted Akros this month in their most recent newsletter. They shared a prezi that walks through how DHIS2 is used in Zambia, specifically the innovative new system The Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) has created with technical assistance from Akros, to reach its goal of eliminating malaria country-wide by 2020. One of the components of this system centers around community-level malaria surveillance and leverages community health worker (CHW) networks in two main areas:
1. Finding, treating and reporting all malaria infections in the community
2. Reducing the burden of outpatient care and staff work load at the health facility through expanding access to malaria diagnosis and treatment by CHWs at community level.
Check out the prezi below, then click here to learn more about Akros’ work in community-level malaria surveillance.
[icon size=”22″]icon-file[/icon] Download a PDF about community-level surveillance.
[icon size=”16″]icon-camera[/icon] Anne Mutunda (far right) celebrates the 1 million new users of sanitation milestone with her W.A.S.H. colleagues at the Akros offices in November. Mutunda will present on her research at the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research in Boston this June.
World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 each year as a global health awareness day that also marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization, established in 1948. For the past two years, this day has also marked the start of World Health Worker Week, a weeklong celebration of the inspiring health workers who make health care possible. This is also a week to celebrate health workers who provide health care in the hardest to reach places, often compromising their own comfort for the sake of health equity.
Anne Mutunda, an Akros Water & Sanitation Health (WASH) Surveillance Officer, has been invited to make a presentation during the 21st Biennial Conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research to be held at the Centre for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University in Boston from June 4 – 6. “I am very happy to be invited to this conference, I feel delighted as this will make me known in the international research community as a subject-matter expert in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene,” said Mutunda.
Akros Director of Research, Daniel Bridges, along with CEO Anna Winters and other partners recently published an article in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene on the use of shipping containers to support basic science, clinical research projects, and health services – all uses often lacking in the developing world. The article is titled “Modular Laboratories—Cost-Effective and Sustainable Infrastructure for Resource-Limited Settings” and appears in the December 2014 issue.
As chiefdoms attain an open defecation free (ODF) status in Zambia, they have begun looking at sanitation from a much broader perspective by looking for approaches that can be used to sustain adequate sanitation. This has necessitated the introduction of two approaches: sanitation marketing and school-led total sanitation (SLTS).
Sanitation marketing is an emerging field that applies social and commercial marketing approaches to scale up the supply and demand for improved sanitation facilities. It assists low-income households in gaining sustainable access to improved sanitation they want and can afford. Sanitation marketing is a new approach in Zambia, and was first introduced in Namwala district this year as a pilot, with the hope of learning from its implementation process and scaling it up to other provinces. The approach was introduced to chiefdom Mukobela where ODF status was attained in 2013. “Before the introduction of CLTS, the government tried building toilets for the community but they were not used. It was after triggering the chiefdom that we understood that the community needed a mind-set change, not actual toilets for starters,” said Kelvin Simukondwi, Namwala D-WASH Coordinator.
CLTS involves triggering, an approach aimed at stimulating a collective sense of fear, disgust and shame among community members as they confront the crude facts about mass open defecation and its negative impacts on the entire community. Activities include “transect walks” (tours of the village locating open defecation sites and tracing paths of contamination through water or animals), discussions, and the formulation of an action plan to become ODF.
As part of its humanitarian support to the Republic of Mali, Akros has been conducting a five-day mapping exercise of Bamako, Mali’s capital, which has been hit with the Ebola virus. The mapping exercise has been done with the use of OpenStreetMap (OSM), an open initiative to create and provide free geographic editable data of the world map. The community’s contributors include enthusiast mappers, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) professionals, engineers running the OSM servers and humanitarians mapping disaster-affected areas.
Akros, having health data systems at the centre of its work, has become part of this global mapping community and is currently working with other contributors to ensure that geographical data about Bamako is made available. Two GIS clerks have been working with supervision from Akros GIS experts in Lusaka to provide data on features such as highways, pedestrian paths, buildings, and water bodies. The mapping work Akros is conducting for Ebola efforts is very similar to activities conducted this past year to plan for and implement malaria interventions in Zambia. “Akros looks for opportunities to take methodologies or lessons learned in one sector and apply them to other areas of health to create impact,” said Akros CEO, Anna Winters. “Related to the devastating Ebola epidemic, we have wanted to support the critical field activities in anyway we can. Our team of GIS mappers have added great value by taking mapping methods we developed in sub-saharan Africa for malaria prevention and applying these to map Ebola-epidemic areas. These maps are extremely beneficial to plan the logistics and implementation of crucial Ebola-related health services”
The Akros research portfolio is now available on the MESA Track database.
MESA Track is a freely available database of research projects relevant to the malaria elimination and eradication agenda. The Akros team worked with MESA to ready its research portfolio for the launch at ASTMH in New Orleans in November.
Akros joins many other leading groups on the MESA Track such as the NIH ICEMR network, MACEPA, and CHAI. MESA Track is a living and growing database. It is open for any research organization or scientist to submit their research portfolio.
On Dec 11 Akros staff held a Christmas celebration with nearly 300 orphans and vulnerable children from Mercy Ministries’ Chifundo School. Akros also donated a Canon multifunction printer to assist the school with its daily office operations which in the past was problematic and very expensive as the school had to subcontract nearby printing outlets to access the service.
Akros staff spent the afternoon at the school to play with the children, share gifts, and a special lunch during the Christmas party. The excited pupils entertained the guests with a series of songs, dances and poems. The event was made even more colourful when Santa Claus joined the fun and presented some wrapped gifts to the children that included toothpaste, toothbrushes, a toy puzzle, bathing and washing soap. Akros staff made their musical debut through entertainment for the children with some Christmas carols.
Akros has recently begun partnering with university graduate programs to offer practical knowledge and experience to students with an interest in health around the world. Annie Glover, a Masters student in Public Health at the University of Montana in the United States is one of those students, and has been in Zambia for the past month. “I have always wanted to pursue public health, meet new people, experience new culture and give back to society” said Glover.
Annie’s time in Zambia was spent learning the intricacy of the work community health workers and volunteers do. Her work also involved identifying avenues that Akros can use in collaborating with other like-minded organisations in order to increase its efficiency and effectiveness.
A group of 16 high school students and 5 teachers recently visited Akros as part of their learning expedition. The students, aged between 15 and 17, are part of the Traveling School, based in the U.S. The group of 16 young women spent a day between the Akros offices and the National Malaria Control Centre to gain a better understanding of Akros’ involvement in building healthy communities. The visit was also meant to bridge the gap between classroom knowledge and practice.
Various members of the Akros staff told the story of Akros’ history, areas of focus and mission. The young women learned about Akros’ on going work supporting disease surveillance, and received some information on international career track approaches. The enthusiastic students were then given a presentation on malaria and its lifecycle. After the presentations at Akros offices, the girls were taken on a tour to the National Malaria Control Centre where they got a chance to see how the lab plays a significant role in the fight against malaria. They were taken through the process of how the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used in the detection of low-density malaria infections that the rapid diagnosis test (RDT) and microscopy can sometimes miss. Students also got the opportunity to learn how an RDT works.