Australian aid ALA Fellowships
In April 2008, the SPCNMOA requested that the WHO CC FNMH at UTS develop a leadership program focused on skills development in leadership and identified priority areas. At the meeting, delegates reported they experienced challenges relating to HRH shortages, changing patterns of health care delivery relating to chronic, acute and emerging diseases related to climate change, under-developed regulation and standardised systems and lack of skills in policy development and data literacy. In April the Australian Government announced the Australian Leadership Awards and funding for Fellowships to citizens of eligible countries in the Asia-Pacific region which potentially would allow a number of these issues to be addressed. A proposal to this funding scheme from the UTS WHO CC was developed in partnership with the SPCNMOA and member countries were asked to identify suitable people for participation in the program.
The Australian Leadership Awards (ALA) is a regional program auspiced by the Australian Government and funded through Australian aid which aims to develop leadership, build partnerships and linkages within the Asia-Pacific, and address regional concerns. ALA Fellowships are for short term study, research and professional development programs in Australia delivered by Australian organisations. They are aimed at current or future leaders in the region and are based on identified regional priorities. Applications are restricted to Australian organisations demonstrating on-going linkages with counterpart organisations in eligible countries.
The WHOCC in partnership with the SPCNMOA applied for inclusion in the ALA round 4 in August 2008 following overwhelming interest from the region, 132 applications were received from 10 countries in the South Pacific. The initial application to Australian aid was for 90 applicants, Australian aid was able to provide scholarships for 30 participants for 2009 with a view that more will be funded in subsequent years should this program prove to be successful. The following countries were included in this initial program: Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Tokelau.
The aim of the Australian aid funded program was to strengthen regional relationships and build leadership capacity. This was achieved by working closely with the counterpart organization, The South Pacific Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers Alliance (SPCNMOA) and senior nurses and midwives in Pacific countries to develop and provide a regional skills development program. The SPCNMOA identified the following five priority areas around which the program was developed; leadership, policy development and implementation, human resources for health (HRH), regulation and data literacy for decision-making.
The program objectives were designed to increase local capacity to meet changing population and health system needs by providing tools and strategies and developing supportive nursing and midwifery networks across the region. These objectives were also met by facilitating the development and implementation of Action Plans in the priority areas which were relevant to the participating countries health development plans as they were specifically chosen by the Fellows in conjunction with their in-country mentors.
Significant achievement of these objectives was evident in the breadth and depth of collaboration and participation in the delivery of the three month leadership program, which included:
- the counterpart organization (SPCNMOA)
- the 30 Fellows from 10 Pacific countries,
- their in-country mentors,
- UTS WHO CC and UTS Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health staff and, external experts who contributed to the program.
For Fellows, the development of leadership capacity was reported as greater awareness of health system and nursing and midwifery issues, new knowledge and skills in the five priority areas, establishment and participation in new networks and exposure to new and relevant resources.
Outcomes initiated by Fellows that have the potential to generate real changes in practice included:
- introduction of leadership mentoring schemes,
- revision of membership of key health system committee (infection control) to include Fellows and other new members from important stakeholder areas (such as a pharmacist and operating theatre staff),
- development of professional standards and;
- instigation of a range of actions to improve the education and training for clinical nurses and midwives as well as their supervisors and managers.
Feedback from mentors who were members of the SPCNMOA, described how on return home after the study days, Fellows were enthusiastic and effective in reporting to senior in-country stakeholders and other colleagues about the program experience and their Action Plan. These reports also described their new knowledge, skills, confidence and motivation. Action Plan implementation has focused in the short term on instigation of a communication and reporting strategy with some outputs produced in the forms of survey tools, ministerial briefings and funding applications.
New leadership relationships have been formed at country and regional levels through this program. Strategies to maintain contact with in-country Fellows and mentors have been outlined and all have agreed to a plan for ongoing contact by the SPCNMOA and UTS WHO CC through to early next year (2010) where a further report will be produced on the progress of Action Plan implementation and levels of network activity.