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Behind the Scenes of the mHero Virtual Course

By Christina Villella

The first time I was introduced to mHero, I was visiting IntraHealth International in January 2015 and heard Leah McManus talk about her experiences being in Liberia piloting mHero during the thick of the Ebola outbreak. I was impressed by IntraHealth’s dedication to develop a technology that could get a quick pulse on the status of health facilities and health workers during such a tumultuous time. It was also my first exposure to mHealth applications designed specifically to support health workers. Little did I know, I would pick up this work that following summer.

Over that following summer, I had the opportunity to contribute to the mHero project. IntraHealth had been awarded an Ebola Grand Challenge award from USAID, and as part of the project, it was beginning to think about other use cases beyond Ebola and how mHero could be used to strengthen health systems. We thought about how Ministries of Health might want to use mHero for understanding health workers’ provision of immunizations, family planning, antenatal care, and postnatal care as we had heard from countries devastated by Ebola that these service delivery systems had been severely disrupted by Ebola.

Then, this spring, as part of an effort to share in-depth information about mHero with potential users all over the globe, IntraHealth launched a four week virtual eLearning course.  The course seeks to engage mHero users, system administrators and stakeholders about any and everything related to mHero from brainstorming use cases to analyzing mHero data.

   "As course participants dig into the material, it will be exciting to see how they conceptualize how they could use mHero to make data-driven decisions to improve health services and health workforce management."

To operationalize this, we developed different tracks so health professionals from all different sectors: ministry of health workers, donors, implementing partners, and ICT specialists, to name a few, could participate in the course and learn information about mHero relevant to what their role in mHero could be. My IntraHealth colleagues and I got deep into the weeds of mHero to develop engaging eLearning content to introduce course participants to mHero. Many of the tools that had been used to launch mHero in Liberia were repackaged so that implementers from around the globe could use them.

Excitement amongst the team grew as participants registered for the course from all over the world, representing 26 different countries. People from all corners of the globe were interested in how they could use mHero, from Capetown, South Africa to Hanoi, Vietnam to London, United Kingdom.  As we watched the numbers of participant registrations increase, we were very motivated to ensure the content would meet their needs and give them a deep overview of not just the technology behind mHero, but also the processes.

I assisted in preparing the use case brainstorm and prioritization activity for the course, which highlights the versatility and country ownership that mHero embodies. mHero is a communications platform developed from open source software, meaning implementing countries have complete ownership of the messages they send out, enabling them to focus on their own priorities and strategic initiatives.

Also through the course, participants will be given the opportunity to think about how mHero can supplement existing health information systems to provide data that might be missing. We have one entire module dedicated to data use, challenging participants in the course to think not only about how they could use data from mHero but how they can generate demand for data from mHero. 

mHero Course

We also created the content so that participants go through the steps needed to obtain and analyze the data from mHero and to think about how to present this information to stakeholders. For me, this is one of the most important parts of the course- because any health information system is only as good as its ability to produce data that can be turned into actionable information.

As course participants dig into the material, it will be exciting to see how they conceptualize how they could use mHero to make data-driven decisions to improve health services and health workforce management. Given the course has forums for open discussion, participants can brainstorm together and share successes and challenges in order to get the most out of the global eLlearning experience. 

The course launched earlier this month, and I am so excited to watch as participants from all over the globe think about how they could use mHero; I am sure they will come up with ideas we have not thought of yet because the possibilities are endless! Our hope is that with momentum from this course, coupled with the desire for health information systems that provide actionable data, these ideas can be turned into reality.

Christina Villella is a recent Master’s of Public Health recipient at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health. She was also a 2015 UNC-IntraHealth Summer Fellow and consultant with IntraHealth.