Sharing Leads to Better Health

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Peer-to-peer learning builds a better public health system

Twenty-four men and two women sit around a "U‟ shaped table inside a brightly painted room in the newly built Ministry of Public Health office in Hirat Province. Participants from provincial public health offices had gathered to share their experiences in rebuilding Afghanistan‟s public health system. Surrounded by walls lined with posters and colorful charts, the group listens intently to a speaker at the front.

Hirat, in western Afghanistan, has long been regarded as one of the country's most prosperous and stable provinces, and the Hirat provincial health team is recognized as a model for public health management and leadership. To get the most out of this, USAID, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health, helped establish the Hirat Learning Center to enable health professionals to learn from their peers in other provinces how to manage and lead a provincial public health system.

Three months after its inauguration, the center hosted its first visitors from five provincial public health offices. For the first session, USAID‟s project staff took the lead to share their best practices, demonstrate their strengths and achievements, and inspire others to initiate improvements in their provinces. The four-day exercise looked at key health service indicators and annual operational planning.

By the second meeting, instead of outside facilitators, the local Hirat provincial health team facilitated the discussion to empower Afghan health officials to teach each other best practices and lessons learned.

Dr. Fazel Karim Saeedi, provincial public health director of Kabul Province, said, “The food hygiene monitoring and the environmental health practices in Hirat are an excellent model to be copied in other provinces. We have listed some actions to be undertaken after we return to our own provinces. I really appreciate the Hirat Public Health Office team for their high performance and the results they have achieved.” USAID develops the capacity of the Ministry of Public Health to manage the health care delivery system and improve the capacity of provincial health offices in 17 Afghan provinces.