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    Learning materials for health workers.

    Dowling MA; Ritson R

    Who Chronicle. 1985; 39(5):171-5.

    The need exists to encourage developing countries to produce their own learning materials to meet the specific requirements of their own health personnel and to create a structure capable of functioning independently after any external funds and technical assistance have been phased out. In 1981, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN National Development Program established a joint Interregional Health Learning Materials (HLM) Program. It began with a small number of pilot projects in selected countries, the intention being to extend it gradually to other countries in the light of experience. The program is aimed at helping developing countries to produce their own teaching and learning materials adapted to their special needs and encouraging them to work together and build up a network for sharing materials and expertise. An HLM project is part of a national program and makes use of local staff and infrastructure. Both teachers and students help in preparing the learning materials. A number of national projects are now in operation, producing teaching aids, manuals, slides, guides for teachers, and textbooks for use in the field, all of which are in line with national health priorities and goals and many of which are shared with other projects. Of the countries in which HLM projects are in operation, all but 1 are in Africa. The only exception thus far is Nepal, although a project has been requested by Fiji. Technical cooperation between the African projects is beginning to make headway, despite initial problems because of differences in language. For national reliance to be achieved, the training of key staff is essential. For this purpose, WHO is collaborating with the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) in Nairobi, a nongovernmental organization with many years of experience in developing teaching materials for health workers in Africa. Special emphasis is now being given to the training of national project staff in the application of microcomputers. The aim is ultimately for external support to be no longer needed. The national plan for each HLM project foresees the withdrawal of external support after 5 years. By that time the project should have a core of trained staff, the necessary equipment, and an established HLM unit within the national system and should be self-reliant in planning, testing, producing, and evaluating teaching and learning materials for its own health personnel. The production of health learning materials must clearly be part of an integrated plan for health manpower development.
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