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Author POLHN editorial team Category: Dated:July 26th, 2016

Dedicated e-learning Platform

How Pacific island countries combined forces to create an e-learning platform that builds the skills of doctors and nurses and improves health care

Small  island  developing  States  in  the  Pacific  and  their  remote  island  communities  are  often  enable  to  access  the  highest-quality  health-care  education  and  the  latest  techniques in disease control and treatment. Medical schools often need to upgrade their educational programmes, and as a result, physicians and medical experts lack the skills and information that they need to treat patients adequately.


Towards a Solution
In  2003,  the  ministers  of  health  of  the  Pacific  small  island  developing  States  came  together to create the Pacific Open Learning Health Net (POLHN). POLHN works to ensure that health professionals have access to the continuing professional development that they need.  It  also  builds  capacity  among  local  and  regional  academic  institutions  to  develop and deliver online, continuing professional development programmes. Since its creation, POLHN has been delivering democratic, equitable, scalable and localized online, continuing professional educational courses to health-care professionals in the Pacific countries.

As a regional collaboration mechanism built on South-South cooperation and based at Fiji National University, POLHN has been accepting Pacific regional students under the  same  conditions  as  national  students,  and  it  has  presented  rich  opportunities  for  POLHN  country  coordinators  to  learn  from  one  another  by  sharing  practices  and  experiences through workshops, exchanges and field visits.

The POLHN model is embedded into the Ministry of Health training plan and is guided by the Human Resources for Health plan. POLHN Internet-supported learning centres are managed by ministries of health and located in their facilities. Online courses are developed in partnership with local universities and ministries of health.

The courses are  marketed  via  the  POLHN  website,  the  Moodle  learning/teaching  platform,  social  media, e-mails and licensure boards. Since its establishment, POLHN has undergone an external assessment, which has shown that the pilot project was a success, with growing demand from countries to sustain it and deliver additional courses.  POLHN  has  45  Internet-supported  learning  centres  in  14  Pacific  island  countries  and  areas.  Course  subscriptions  are  validated  through  the  POLHN  country  coordinators’  annual  report  and  the  Moodle  student  management  system.  Currently,  POLHN  has  approximately  20,000  online  course  subscribers  and  has  experienced  continuous  demand  for  more  online  courses  from  health  workers,  ministries  of  health  and  licensure  boards POLHN enables health workers to learn while they work, thereby boosting staff retention. It is cost-effective and offers learning opportunities to those who cannot travel abroad. POLHN has created a regional learning network and  enables  extensive  sharing  of  learning  materials  and  courses  to  low-coverage  areas.

The programme has had three broad phases in countries during which it:  (a)  relies  completely  on  donor  funds;  (b)  benefits  from cost-sharing among ministries of health, licensure boards and donors; and (c) is independently managed by ministries of health and licensure boards. POLHN is currently in its second phase in most countries. In Fiji, it is moving towards phase three. The developing countries in the Pacific small island region    have    adopted    and    implemented    POLHN    without too much difficulty.  While  Fiji  has  led  with  the  pilot  phase,  14  Pacific  island  countries  and  areas  have  also  adopted  the  programme,  and  other  Asian  countries  have  shown  interest  in  taking  an  approach  similar to that of POLHN. Main partners include Pacific ministries of health and WHO, which provide financing and technical support, along with universities, licensure boards and health workers.

Mr. Mohammed   Yasin,
Technical   Officer,   Pacific   Open Learning Health Net,
Division of Pacific Technical Support
Read more: Health workers in Vanuatu improve skills
Good Practices in South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Sustainable Development

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