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In 2006, Dr. Bill Nelems made his first trip back to Zambia in over 50 years to meet with his colleague and medical school classmate Professor Chifumbe Chintu. During this visit, Professor Chintu introduced Dr. Nelems to a range of key players in the Zambian medical and health sector to discuss potential international cooperation.
Years later, a series of Canadian-Zambian collaborations have taken place, building on this initial visit.
Five years after Dr. Nelems’ and Professor Chintu’s initial visit, it was time to take stock. In July of 2011, an OkaZHI evaluation team travelled to Western Province, Zambia, to formally and systematically assess contributions of, and challenges to, OkaZHI’s efforts since its inception - seeking Zambian colleagues and partners’ experiences, perspectives and suggestions for OkaZHI as it moves forward.
The data gave evidence to eight key findings. Detailed in the report below, these include:
Finding 1: Zambian course participants reported improved health outcomes for patients, due to improvements in their delivery and quality of care following the OkaZHI courses.
Finding 2: Zambian course participants said they felt more confident in their practice because of the new skills and knowledge they had acquired through their collaboration with OkaZHI.
Finding 3: Course participants found OkaZHI courses to be highly relevant to health care needs in Western province and directly applicable in their day-to-day work.
Finding 4: Course participants found OkaZHI courses, methodologies and instructors to be highly comprehensive, professional and innovative - though courses were commonly critiqued as being too short.
Finding 5: 90% of OkaZHI course participants said they have shared knowledge gained in the courses with colleagues, suggesting OkaZHI is having reach beyond the classroom.
Finding 6: Course participants health professionals noted less than expected use of eGranary digital library due to lack of training and accessibility.
Finding 7: Course participants identified a variety of contextual factors, which affect the overall impact of OkaZHI's interventions, including workload issues, retention issues and lack of equipment.
Finding 8: Course participants made a number of specific requests about directions for ongoing support from OkaZHI, including teaching at UNZA School of Medicine.
Amidst these findings, three key lessons emerged.
First and foremost, OkaZHI efforts would not have achieved anything were it not for the incredible commitment, partnership and guidance of its Zambian colleagues and partners.
Second, OkaZHI efforts to date have yielded significant outcomes in Western Province - especially given the relatively short timeframe in which it has been working in Zambia.
The third key lesson that emerged in the evaluation process is that there are a number of external factors that pose challenges to OkaZHI’s efforts, including the long-term sustainability of its successes.