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Supporting ASHAs in providing Family Planning Advice

ujjwal-training Recently we made a visit to India to support Johns Hopkins Uni CCP in their implementation of OppiaMobile for ASHAs providing family planning advice in their communities in the Bihar region. We’ve been collaborating with the JHU CCP team in India for the last few months, so was great to get the opportunity to actually meet face to face and spend time with the ASHAs and the communities they are supporting.

JHU CCP India have been implementing Project Ujjwal for the last few years (funded by DFID/UKAID) to support improved family planning and reproductive health services in India, focusing on the Bihar and Odissa regions (two of the poorest states in India). One aspect of this project has been to provide health workers with video and media content they can show their clients to help them arrive at the right family planning method for them. So far these videos have been distributed on SD cards on low-end/feature phones, however they also wanted to look at ways in which these videos could be delivered in a more structured way, which is where OppiaMobile comes in.

ujjwal-appWe have created a slightly customised version of the OppiaMobile app, to include the videos resources for use during their client counselling sessions and also a mobile learning component, to give them easy access to more information about how they can use the videos during their counselling sessions and the various family methods they are expected to provide advice on.

The training was split over two days, with the first day initially orientating the health workers in how to use the smartphones (the model used was Lava Iris 406Q) and the app. The health workers then had a day to try the app in their communities during their counselling sessions. The second training day then followed up on their experiences and to gather feedback. Although this was very initial feedback after using for only one day in the field, we’ll be following them up each week for the next few months. Initial feedback was very positive, several ASHAs informed us that just by being able to show the videos to their clients, this had given sufficient information for their clients to attend the local Project Ujjwal family planning clinic. We expect to obtain more substantive and qualified feedback and results over the coming few months.

The Ujjwal app is freely available on the Google Play store at: if you would like to try it out for yourself.

In addition to supporting the initial training, there were several other important aspects to our visit to India:

  1. To build up a better picture of the workflows of frontline health workers, especially with respect to how education and training can be integrated into their day-to-day activities, without creating extra workload burdens.
  2. To begin to build a blueprint of how a locally sustainable end-to-end content production and delivery system could be created to enable the re-use and adaptation of locally relevant content to support frontline health workers’ training needs on mobile platforms, tying in closely with mPowering’s objectives
  3. Meeting with local content production agencies (e.g. filmmakers).
  4. Meeting with local software and technical development organisations, specifically to support the ongoing maintenance and development of the localised OppiaMobile for Ujjwal app.

We’re very grateful to mPowering, JHU CCP and Futures Group, for all their support to enable this work and to the JHU CCP India team who have been very enthusiastic about the possibilities and made us very welcome in India.

Finally, many thanks to the ASHAs, who (despite it being a fasting day during the first day training), were very active during the training sessions and we hope these resources can help the great work they are doing in their communities. For me, it was fantastic to get the chance to spend time with them and learn more about their work, challenges and environment, to continue to improve how they may be supported by these new types of technologies.

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