Client(s): Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Services: Technical Assistance, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research, Training, Capacity Development
Technical Expertise: Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Health Systems Strengthening, Immunization, Infectious Diseases
Uganda remains one of the countries with the highest number of unvaccinated children in the Horn of Africa. More than one out of every five children does not receive the full benefits of immunization, and in 2014, WHO ranked Uganda as one of the lowest-ranking countries in Africa in terms of vaccinated children. With new, life-saving vaccines being introduced each year in Uganda, the need for a strong and sustainable routine immunization (RI) system capable of immunizing all children every year is more important than ever.
To this end, the JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. (JSI) received an award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to strengthen routine immunization systems in Uganda. The Stronger Systems for Routine Immunization (SS4RI) project is building the capacity of Uganda's health system, particularly at district level, to provide timely, high-quality immunization services to protect eligible children and women from vaccine-preventable diseases. SS4RI runs from 2014 to 2019 in 10 districts and supports the Ministry of Health Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunisation (MOH/UNEPI).
SS4RI works in partnership with UNEPI, district, and sub-district health structures to operationalize the Uganda Reaching Every Child using Quality Improvement (REC-QI) approach to strengthen routine immunization systems. REC-QI provides a framework to operationalize processes to meet that goal in a lasting way. It also applies methods from the field of quality improvement to increase coverage and help ensure that immunization services are effective, safe, and responsive to community needs.
In the REC-QI approach, high-priority problems such as persistently high drop-out rates are broken down into smaller components and assigned changes that can be quickly tested and vetted for adoption, adaptation, or abandonment at local level. This approach builds the capacity of district health officers to provide affordable technical and managerial support to health care providers and promotes local solutions.
The REC-QI approach in Uganda was initially designed and implemented in five districts with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the globally funded Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, which ended in 2014. With continued support from USAID through the Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP), REC-QI is being introduced in an additional 5-10 districts. The new support for SS4RI from the Gates Foundation enables broader implementation of the approach, in response to requests from the MOH/UNEPI. In addition to working in selected districts with high numbers of unimmunized children, SS4RI is collaborating with UNEPI and other partners and establishing an advisory expert panel in order to share tools, methods, and experience with REC-QI to facilitate its broader understanding and uptake.