Collaborating Across Sectors to Improve Child Health Outcomes in Malawi

Daisy WinnerBlog, Malawi, Medicine, Midwifery, Nursing

Last month, the Paediatrics and Child Health Association of Malawi hosted their first conference, Using a Multidisciplinary Team Approach to Improve Child Health Outcomes in Malawi.

Sponsored by Seed Global Health, the Global Health Service Partnership, Rice 360° Institute for Global Health and GIZ, the conference brought together over 200 participants, including Child health nurses, midwives, pediatricians, social workers, legal practitioners, and Ministry of Health representatives, to develop innovative and multi-sectoral solutions to ensuring the healthy growth and development of children all over Malawi.

To learn about the outcomes and successes of the conference we spoke to two of the organizers: Dr. Bridget Malewezi, Seed Global Health’s Malawi Country Director, and Mr. Maureen D. Majamanda, Senior Lecturer from the Pediatric Nursing Department at Kamuzu College of Nursing.

What inspired the conference?

 Dr. Bridget Malewezi (BM): Under the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP), Seed Global Health provides several awards and resources to support our partner sites & countries for improving medical and nursing education. One of the platforms for this is an award for each country to hold a scientific conference to promote sharing of local scientific findings. Last year Malawi didn’t manage to have a conference, but when we shared the opportunity for conferencing this year, the GHSP cohort agreed to work on a paediatric conference.

 Maureen Majamanda (MM): We have never hosted a paediatric and child health conference in Malawi. We have always attended other conferences that do not focus on a child only in Malawi. We have attended and helped organize international child health conferences and have realized that similar conferences can be organised in Malawi.

What were the goals of the conference?

 MM: The conference aimed to bring together health care professionals who work with children to share evidence on best practices to improve child health care in Malawi. Another goal was to strengthen multidisciplinary team working in child health care in Malawi.

What were some of the highlights from the conference?

 BM: There were so many, from the planning to the actual implementation of the conference. I especially commend the team for bringing together various cadres (doctors, nurses, allied professionals & even sectors outside of healthcare like social welfare, legal work) under the theme of multidisciplinary team approach. They truly exemplified this not only in the way they worked as a coordinating team but in the variety of topics, presenters and participants that they managed to bring to the conference. The conference was very well organized and from the feedback both from the GHSP Volunteers and other participants they were impressed with the professional way it was managed.

 What were some of the outcomes or successes of the conference?

 BM: This was the first scientific conference for paediatrics in country by the Paediatric & Child Health Association (PACHA) and provided a platform for local stakeholders to know more about how they can engage with PACHA.

Following the conference, five of the best presentations were chosen for their papers to be published in the Malawi Medical Journal. For some of the winners this will be their first time to be published, which is a major accomplishment.

The conference also provided an opportunity to bring together all the various institutions doing paediatric research in Malawi and coordinate their research efforts and better understand the research agenda for paediatrics.

One of the GHSP volunteers – Elizabeth Glaser –  also used the abstract review process to train her masters students on how to review and grade an abstract – which they then utilised in reviewing submissions to the conference.

Additionally, for many presenters it was their first time to share their data both for oral & poster presentations, making it great environment for them to improve their presentation skills.

Furthermore, it was an important learning opportunity on topics like managing adolescents, ethical dilemmas and the roles of not only health professionals but the law and other professionals.

MM: There was good attendance. About 150 people attended the conference. It was evident that the conference was multidisciplinary as we had 35% clinicians, 42% nurses, 5% students and 17% were from research institutions, private hospitals, and allied health professionals.

Why are meetings like this important?

 BM: There is a lot of research and great work and innovation happening in our country but sometimes these findings don’t make their way beyond a paper or library shelves. Conferences like this not only provide the opportunity to share research, best practices, and upcoming information in the field but also spurs discussion on pertinent issues affecting practice. Additionally, meetings like this allows for networking and development of new partnerships not only across institutions but various cadres and individuals.

MM: These meetings give us current updates on the topic and they offer an opportunity for professionals with similar interest to network. All participants to the conference appreciated the importance of working as a multidisciplinary team in delivering Child Health care in Malawi.