2016 The Gambia

Health systems strengthening in The Gambia: Next steps

Summer 2016

Led by Melissa McDiarmid, MD, MPH, School of Medicine with Joanna Gaitens, MSN, MPH, PhD, School of Medicine

Students (school affiliation): Nicole Campion Dialo (medicine), Wesley Chan (medicine), Sarah Gregorini (social work), Alyssa Riuli (dentistry)

Project summary

As part of the University of Maryland Baltimore’s (UMB) Global Inter-Professional Education  Program, a team of UMB faculty and students, together with several Gambian partners, including the University of the Gambia School of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (UTG) and the Gambian Ministry of Health (MoH), collaborated to advance knowledge and capacity in health worker protections by providing a three-day training course at the principal teaching hospital of the Gambia for members of the MoH and regional and local health workers in the Gambia.

Prior work in the Gambia included Dr. McDiarmid’s visit in 2014, during which the foundations for the 2016 project were set. At that time, potential partners were identified, principal hospitals and clinics were visited and key informant interviews were conducted with Gambian colleagues using newly developed occupational health and safety assessment tools that were subsequently incorporated into the 2016 training curriculum. For the 2016 project, the anchoring activity was conducting a three-day Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) training for MoH and other Gambian public health and medical care providers. More than thirty participants were registered for this training. A second, one-day training was then requested by the Director of the Infection Prevention and Control Department of the teaching hospital for his full staff and was presented the following week. Critical aspects of the training included performing facility walkthroughs with class participants and local health workers to identify potential health and safety hazards within two hospitals and one local health clinic which we visited. Our team also attended several meetings with key actors in the health sector, including a World Health Organization (WHO) representative and the US Ambassador.

The UMB team is enormously grateful for our shared IPE experience which we judge to have been highly productive, due to the cooperation and trust of our open and generous Gambian partners. We received unprecedented support from the MoH, which convened more than 30 people including the deputy minister for public health and the permanent deputy minister who opened the three day training. The Ministry also provided the participants’ meals (including ours!). As well, at our request, one of their occupational health officers prepared an overview of the health workforce for presentation in the training. Also, the generous co-sponsorship of Dr. Nyan, who hosted the training in his school, shared his staff and personally attended many hours of the training cannot be overstated.

The UMB team is encouraged by the energy and passion displayed by the training participants and colleagues. Importantly, also, concrete actions for moving forward to address occupational health and safety hazards within the health sector were identified by training participants as well as other key personnel that the team met with during the two-week period. It is anticipated that UMB will continue to support the Gambian efforts through electronic communications and if possible, additional future visits.

Read the student presentation that was made at the Institute for Global Health Summit, September 2016.