This report shares lessons learned from The Merck Company Foundation's decade of experience building immunization capacity in Africa. The Merck Vaccine Network -- Africa, a philanthropic initiative to train immunization managers in Kenya, Mali, Uganda, and Zambia, suggests seven key lessons that can help other funders, governments, and NGOs designing or implementing similar vaccine delivery training programs improve the effectiveness and sustainability of their work.
Merck's experience designing and supporting the initiative can offer valuable lessons for other actors in the immunization and broader global health fields who are engaged in or planning similar work. Specifically, we identify seven forward-looking lessons that can increase the effectiveness and sustainability of programs to build the capacity of the vaccine workforce in developing countries:
Conduct a rigorous needs assessment to anchor efforts in local needs and priorities;
Perform ongoing monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to enable programs to adapt, improve, and generate evidence of impact to attract new partners and funding;
Create a sustainability plan at the outset to ensure that program impact is maintained beyond the conclusion of initial funding;
Embed programs into local health systems to ensure that investments leverage existing infrastructure, relationships, and resources, and that impact can be sustained beyond the life of the program;
Employ locally-adapted curricula and appropriate teaching techniques to maximize transfer and retention of relevant knowledge;
Incorporate supportive supervision into programs to ensure that transferred knowledge is maintained and acted upon;
Facilitate and support regular convening and communication, enabling continuous learning for improvement.
In addition to describing the approach taken by MVN-A and the results achieved in the four focus countries, this paper provides additional detail on each lesson, supported by case studies from the MVNA experience.
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