KARACHI – Twenty-four mid-level and senior officers of Sindh health department, who successfully completed two courses on health management, attended a grade distribution ceremony held at Aga Khan University (AKU).
These courses were offered by the AKU as part of an agreement, signed in April this year by the Sindh government, John Snow Inc. and the AKU, which made it possible for 95 officers from the Sindh health department to participate in a graduate training programme in health policy and management.
The programme allowed officers to continue to work while studying on weekends as part of the USAID-supported Health Systems Strengthening programme for Maternal and Child Health.
Dr Durrenaz Jamal, EPI’s (Expanded Programme on Immunization) former deputy programme manager, who earlier completed three courses and is now doing her M.Sc., felt that the training has changed her approach to work. “Whatever we are doing now is like going from A to Z. Before that, we used to work haphazardly; now, our focus is more on timeliness, completeness and following a plan.” Her new skills have been put to use in drafting the Comprehensive Multiyear National Immunization Strategy for Sindh.
For others, the courses have encouraged a different approach to old
issues. “We have found a difference in ourselves. The courses have opened up the thinking process in us … the day is not far away when our potential to resolve issues will be recognized,” said Dr Saqib Shaikh. His experience was used to draft Sindh’s Action Plan for Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health and to technically review the new Lady Health Workers’ programme being developed.
To date 68 officers have completed various courses which includes health sector reform, quality management in health services, programme monitoring and evaluation, strategic planning, and injury control. Twenty-five trainees are currently enrolled in courses, while 85 are to be trained next year. Besides, seven have been admitted to the two-year M.Sc. in Health Policy and Management programme.
The challenge now for the Sindh health department is to ensure that these highly trained officers remain in their posts, are allowed planning work in addition to routine administration work and, in the long-term, a health management cadre is institutionalized.
Commending the participants, Dr Shehla Zaidi, AKU’s associate professor and director of the programme said, “We were pleasantly surprised by the dedication of the health department enrollees: they are among our top scorers. There is a public perception that department of health has unwilling workers but we found this not to be true. It has been challenging for them to work and study because these are busy people, yet they are persevering and we hope their senior leadership will use the new skills developed in this workforce to good use.”
Courses for district health officers are expected to start next year.
Chief of Party, John Snow Inc. Dr Nabeela Ali, Sindh health department’s director general Syed Hassan Murad Shah and AKU professor and chair of Community Health Sciences department, Dr Fauziah Rabbani, attended the event and handed out the transcripts.