Amid COVID-19, TCI Coaches in Francophone West Africa Continue to Strengthen Frontline Health Workers’ Capacity

May 7, 2020

Contributors: Hawa Talla and Fatimata Sow

Household visit by a community health worker in Niamey, Niger.

The Challenge Initiative (TCI) in Francophone West Africa provides support to health systems to scale up high-impact interventions for family planning service delivery, demand generation and advocacy. The foundational strategy for rapidly scaling high-impact interventions is TCI’s innovative coaching model, which helps develop a supportive relationship between the “coachee” (the service provider) and the coach to improve the provider’s performance. Coaches are usually selected from well-performing service providers.

The COVID-19 pandemic began in West Africa in early March with its share of restrictive measures around travel, group meetings and even two-person interactions. In such a restrictive environment, coaches have had to be resilient and adaptive to continue supporting service providers and ensuring continuity of family planning services. The following are three strategies TCI coaches are using in Francophone West Africa to weather the pandemic.

Encourage social distancing during coaching sessions on universal referral

A coaching session with social distancing and masks in a health facility in Nioro, Senegal.

Universal referral is one of TCI’s key interventions in Francophone West Africa. This approach consists of offering a woman advice, guidance or family planning services when she visits a health facility for any reason, such as to obtain prenatal or post-natal care, immunizations for her child, treatment for a sick child or post-abortion care. The coaches trained by TCI give support to frontline health workers to correctly implement the approach. During this pandemic, coaches have adapted their in-person coaching sessions by making sure that all providers coached are wearing masks and respect the social distancing rule. They are also integrating COVID-19 messaging with family planning information when making referrals.

Ensure the protection of community health workers

The health providers are coached to better manage community health systems and strengthen community health by conducting household visits to inform women of reproductive age about family planning. During this COVID-19 period, health providers, with the support of coaches, are making sure that all community health workers are wearing masks to conduct their household visits.

Use appropriate technology to maintain contact and support

When coaches are not able to visit the facility, they use their phone (WhatsApp) to reach out to frontline health workers and give them support to continuously improve their performance in providing family planning services.