A New Window: Health Policy and Systems (HPS) New Year Seminars in Accra, Ghana By:Aku Kwamie and Abdallah Ibrahim

The Health Policy and Systems (HPS) New Year Seminars kicked off their inaugural run from 18-29 January 2016. Sponsored by the University of Ghana, Ghana Health Service (Research and Development Division) and the Rockefeller Foundation, and in collaboration with the Consortium for Health Policy and Systems Analysis in Africa (CHEPSAA), the two week seminar series aimed at coaching health systems leadership, practice and research. The maiden HPS seminar brought together a small but committed group of mid-level leaders from all over the country representing different professions (physicians, pharmacists and nurses), and different types of organisations (urban, rural and private hospitals, and district health teams) who persevered daily and ploughed through mountains of nightly reading. All four of the HPS seminar modules have been accredited by the Ghana Medical and Dental Council and Nurse and Midwifery Council. Facilitators were from the University of Ghana and the Ghana Health Service.

In the first week participants enrolled in Introduction to Health Policy and Systems Research, or Leading and Managing in Complex Adaptive Systems. Many took up the challenge to take both modules, and some even stayed on into the second week. In week two, the modules on offer were Policy Analysis and Implementation and Critically Reflexive Strategic Leadership Practice.  In many instances, the courses adapted and built on CHEPSAA materials and drew on the curriculum development skills that were have been developed as part of the CHEPSAA programme.  Although the HPS seminars were advertised within a short period before kick-off, the pioneering participants indicated that social media such as WhatsApp and Google-groups played a key role in how they heard about them. 

The inaugural HPS New Year Seminars proved also to be stimulating amongst the participants. Reflections were beyond positive, and many indicated that they would return to their organisations encouraging their colleagues to participate in future courses. What we learned after the first week is that despite the dense content, participants are able to pick up the concepts quite quickly. This has to do with the practical, experiential sessions, which is a change to the more didactic lecture styles that most participants are used to. Running the modules together also helped in reinforcing various concepts. On reflection, one of the participants reported that he felt this was “really adult learning”. Another participant remarked what the modules meant for him “as a person”, noting the many parallels the course offered to what they go through in day-to-day life. The modules gave him a “sense of consequence – in every facet of life” and changed his thinking. Another participant stated that prior to the seminar he only had a “clinician” view of the health system but can now demonstrate a clear knowledge of the “non-clinical aspect of the health system”. It means that those who engage in HPS leadership, practice and research only need a new window to open up on their problem-solving. Exposure to new or different thinking, which connects health leaders to the systems they work in, can potentially change the wider system – especially when participants are charged up to return and take other modules in the future, and tell others.

During the closing ceremony, Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Dr Kwadwo Koram (where the seminars were held) welcomed graduands and guest to a  brief closing ceremony chaired by Dr. Jemima Dennis-Antwi, President of the Ghana College of Nurses and Midwives.  Professor John Gyapong, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research Innovation and Development, University of Ghana gave the keynote address. Certificates were handed to participants by Professor Richard Adanu, Dean of the School of Public Health, and Professor Edwin Afari, short course coordinator for the School of Public Health.
Overall, the New Year Seminars were an encouraging endeavour. In fact, Dr Moses Adibo, former Director of Medical Services and Deputy Minister of Health, commented that his “hope in the health system has been restored by observing the participants over the week”. It is a small win indeed.