Fueling Collaboration, Learning, and Innovation through Knowledge Exchange

December 4th, 2017 | Viewpoint


The field of public health is rapidly evolving. Pressures from natural disasters, climate change, conflict, and increased migration have shifted public health needs across the world. Technologies and innovations are transforming public health strategies by providing new platforms for sharing information and co-developing potential solutions to address public health problems.

In an ever-changing public health landscape, knowledge exchange is crucial to overcome challenges and utilize new opportunities to improve health. Knowledge exchange allows public health practitioners—at the global and local levels—to share what works, and what does not, in their programs. It creates opportunities for other programs to adapt best practices to their unique contexts and bring successful approaches to scale. It also enables practitioners to troubleshoot program challenges with their peers, drawing on diverse experiences and perspectives to develop innovative solutions.

JSI strengthens knowledge exchange across sectors, countries, and programs, sparking innovation and learning to improve global initiatives. Recently, JSI staff supported a South-South learning event titled “Improving Routine Data for Child Health in National Health Information Systems” in South Africa. It was organized by USAID and the Maternal and Child Survival Program. The workshop brought together public health practitioners from various African countries to share experiences and identify ways to improve data quality, availability, accessibility, and use to improve decision-making and outcomes for nutrition and child health.

The value of face-to-face connection and discussion was also made apparent in a recent exchange trip in Nepal. Over a five-day period, technical advisors from JSI’s programs in Myanmar, India, and Nepal shared ideas and lessons learned from newborn and child health programs in their respective countries. They also worked to identify opportunities for collaboration and adaptation of approaches between contexts. The visitors got a chance to observe current newborn and child health programs in rural areas, peripheral health facilities, and a large referral hospital in Nepal. They discussed program activities and challenges and the differences and similarities between their respective countries.

Dr. Aye Aye Thet from JSI/Myanmar shares Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illness program materials from Myanmar at a health post in Nepal. Photo Credit: Penny Dawson, JSI/CNCP.
Dr. Aye Aye Thet from JSI/Myanmar shares Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illness program materials from Myanmar at a health post in Nepal. Photo Credit: Penny Dawson, JSI/CNCP.

Taking lessons learned from ongoing programming in each country, the group created an action plan to structure and facilitate collaboration between JSI programs in these countries. This includes exploring opportunities to adapt and test effective and scalable newborn health innovations, such as chlorhexidine use for newborn umbilical cord care, in other countries in the region. In addition, as anemia is a pressing health issue for children and women of reproductive age in all three countries, the team will explore new approaches and opportunities to increase iron in family cooking pots to address iron deficiency. Lastly, after meeting with JSI’s affiliate organization, World Education, Inc., all three countries identified a need to investigate ways to strengthen early childhood development activities.

Knowledge exchange is vital to allow public health programs and organizations to adapt to changing needs and take effective approaches to scale. As public health needs evolve, JSI is evolving too, creating knowledge exchange networks and harnessing the power of connection and collaboration to address today’s most pressing public health issues.

Written by Penny Dawson and Sarah Cunningham

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