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Focusing
on a positive impact

Opening Doors to Life-long Learning

How Aga Khan University is reimagining education for nurses and midwives in East Africa
ByRamiz Allafi, 2018 J&J Secondee

I began working for Johnson & Johnson five years ago. During this time, I have always wondered about the extent of our Company’s corporate social responsibility footprint, and how I could contribute to our impact around the world. I found that opportunity as a 2018 Johnson & Johnson Secondee to Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery (AKU-SONAM) in East Africa, supporting the Strengthening Nursing and Midwifery Support Organizations in East Africa project. Within my first month in East Africa, I am already seeing healthcare from a dynamically new perspective. Through this unique long-term partnership, I am adapting to a refreshingly different way of conducting business.

The primary purpose of my Secondment with AKU-SONAM is to help further strengthen the front lines of health in East Africa by building and expanding the access and usage of an AKU-SONAM facilitated Virtual Platform for nurses and midwives. The platform aims to connect nine nurses and midwives associations throughout East Africa, potentially reaching up to 46,000 members, with lifelong learning opportunities! It will provide users with educational materials and video trainings that are accessible from anywhere and at any time, and serve as a community forum for nurses and midwives to share best practices as well as additional professional development opportunities – creating a much needed support network. The Virtual Platform will also benefit from a partnership with the Global Health Network (GHN). GHN is an online “science park” already used worldwide by the global health community to disseminate research and training resources and this partnership will provide us with a blueprint for a strong learning platform for nurses and midwives across East Africa.

As the saying goes, “When you stop learning, you stop living.” Learning is a life-long process, and this is especially true for health professionals. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, health workers must develop new skills in order to keep up with the changes and overcome new challenges. The Virtual Platform will be a digital resource that helps nurses and midwives navigate the ever-changing healthcare field and continuously acquire new tools to advance their profession. This is especially important in East Africa, where nurses and midwives make up 85 percent of all health professionals and deliver most of the primary healthcare, education, and preventive services available. Better trained nurses and midwives means more resilient and innovative health workers adept at responding to whatever health needs come their way.

Creating a virtual resource platform for all nurses and midwives across the East Africa region is a complicated initiative, but as nurses and midwives pointed out, it would significantly improve their professional development and everyday work, removing some of their current barriers to learning opportunities. When I asked the nursing and midwifery associations how a virtual resource platform would help improve East African healthcare systems, they shared the following insights that have since guided our work:

  1. Access to materials from anywhere at any time – no matter where you & what time of day it is
  2. Equal delivery – every member has access to the same information
  3. Financial savings – no need to travel, print materials, rent educational spaces, etc.
  4. Digital skills – improvement of digital capacity & crucial digital skills in the era of IT infrastructure evolution
  5. Expand – expansion of professional horizons with the latest information

As the world celebrates International Day of the Midwife on May 5 and International Nurses Day on May 12, I feel immense pride to be able to support AKU-SONAM and my Company in elevating these heroes on the front lines of care. In building the Virtual Platform, I have the opportunity to contribute to a culture of life-long learning, helping nurses and midwives reach their fullest potential, and open new doors for their professional growth — ultimately improving the quality of health care for the millions of their patients for years to come.

About the Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact Secondment Program

Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact invests in people on the front lines of care as they change the trajectory of health for the world’s most vulnerable people, their families, and their communities. We are inspired to help create a world where people, no matter their circumstances, have access to quality health care. The Secondment Program is a long-term collaboration between Johnson & Johnson, our employees, and our NGO partners to invest in and build the skills of people on the front lines of care in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Through full-time field assignments of up to six months, our employees transfer their knowledge, expertise, and passion to our partners at the heart of delivering care, uniquely give back to society, and change the trajectory of human health. Learn more here.