Health provider advocacy: combining professional expertise and passion for adolescent-friendly services

Health providers have a crucial role in facilitating adolescent-friendly health services (AFHS). The service experience that they provide to adolescents has the power to facilitate their service uptake and access to treatment. By providing AFHS and keeping adolescents committed as equal partners in an open, trusting and confidential relationship, health providers influence the health of many individuals. However, there is a way that the health providers can do more and make their work even more impactful. Health providers can build on their professional expertise and their passion for improving the health and wellbeing of their clients by influencing the health of not only individuals, but entire communities. Health providers can collect their own experiences and the stories and testimonies of  clients and share them with their peers, employers, communities and other stakeholders: they can be health provider advocates!

In August 2020, Paediatric & Adolescent Treatment Africa (PATA) and Health[e]Foundation started a collaboration  to strengthen  the capacity of health providers, empowering them to be strong health advocates for AFHS and integrated SRHR and HIV services. PATA is an action network of health providers and health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa. Their goal is to effect positive change in paediatric and adolescent HIV policy and service delivery on the frontline. Together, we developed  an e-learning course to provide relevant and helpful advocacy tools and techniques that health providers can use to implement advocacy campaigns that can be delivered through a collaboration with community partners and adolescents themselves. The advocacy training will be delivered via a blended approach, combining  face-to-face sessions (via Zoom) and online/offline e-learning via the Moodle platform.

The e-learning course consists of five modules: 1) health providers and advocacy, 2) communication and facilitation skills, 3) reaching out to and engaging with adolescents, 4) sexual and reproductive health & HIV integration and 5) advocacy in action. The content of the modules is engaging, interactive and provided in bite-sized and manageable pieces offering a comprehensive health provider advocacy training programme.

On Thursday 26 November, the kick-off session was hosted via Zoom to start a pilot with 15 health providers based in Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This  group will test the learning platform and provide feedback to further improve the course via an inclusive development process. PATA and Health[e]Foundation will incorporate the lessons learned and the updated course will be ready for roll-out at the start of 2021.

We are looking forward to an exciting continuation of the collaboration with PATA to build the capacity of health providers to be strong health advocates for adolescent friendly health services!