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Centre for Global Child Health

Improving Outcomes Together: Partnerships that Strengthen Child Health Systems

August 18, 2014, marked the 500-day countdown towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  It is a time to reflect and respond. As we look back on success stories and lessons learned, it is inspiring to see the results achieved in support of the MDGs.

For MDG #4– reducing under-five mortality by two thirds, by 2015 – a reflection on partnerships that have brought to life programs and solutions to improve child health tells the compelling story of countries and organizations working together to strengthen health systems by empowering and educating healthcare professionals, including nurses. One such example is the Ghana-SickKids Paediatric Nurse Training Programme, which established the first specialized paediatric nurse education program in Ghana – the first of its kind in West Africa.

Around the world nurses comprise the largest portion of the health workforce. Nurses are critical to ensuring access to health-care services, and ultimately improving health outcomes for children and their families.  However, success towards this goal rests with specialized training and care.

Ghana has reduced its under-five mortality from 120 to 69 per 1,000 births since 1990 – a major step toward the achievement of MDG #4. In order to build on this reduction, accelerate improved child health outcomes, and strengthen human resources for health, in 2009, the Government of Ghana set a goal to train, retain and deploy 1500 paediatric nurses over 10-15 years.

And because good things are built when people and countries work together, Ghana and Canada took a partnership approach to the challenge of improving child health. The Centre for Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, supported by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) and the Charles & Rita Field-Marsham Foundation, partnered with the Ghanian Ministry of Health and the University of Ghana to advance and accelerate progress in child health and toward the achievement MDG #4.

The goal of the program was to train over 150 nurses with advanced-level paediatric knowledge and skills and develop nursing leaders in child health through specialized education.  Overall, the aim was to strengthen health and education systems through establishing a sustainable and replicable model for paediatric nurse training at the academic, hospital and community levels. From 2011 to 2013, the Ghana-SicKKids Paediatric Nurse Training Programme resulted in an initial cadre of over 200 paediatric nurses. Based on the success of the initial program, partners are now looking to scale-up the initiative for broader reach and results.

With 500 days to go, let’s be inspired by partnerships that go the distance to reach the MDGs.