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The first class of the South Sudan Public Health Institute (SSPHI) fellowship program graduated on June 3, 2022. Through support from IntraHealth International, these 42 health workers are now entering the country’s health system with new expertise in data management, leadership management, and governance.
Due to decades of conflict in South Sudan, the country’s higher education infrastructure is underdeveloped and there is no institution of higher learning that provides on-the-job learning for the current health workforce. So, the Ministry of Health worked with government, health, academic, and funding partners to help build consensus on training needs and prioritized training courses on data management, leadership management, and governance.
“Having public health leaders who make informed decisions using evidence from high-quality data is essential to the development of any country,” says Dr. Angok Gordon Kuol, director of the South Sudan Public Health Institute. “So we’re thrilled to help increase these health workers’ skills to improve health services in South Sudan.”
Through financial support from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and programmatic support from IntraHealth, the South Sudan Public Health Institute launched the three-month fellowship for health leaders on March 18, 2022. IntraHealth helped the South Sudan Ministry of Health establish the institute and the fellowship program, including recruiting a technical team, conducting a training needs assessment, and developing course materials, validating them, and rolling them out.
Members of the inaugural fellowship program include leaders from the Ministry of Health, such as directors general, commission directors, program managers, and department heads at the national, state, and country level. Graduating fellows are urged to apply everything they learned upon returning to South Sudan’s health sector.
This is a big step in the right direction for the health systems strengthening in South Sudan.
Over 145 people attended the graduation in June, including representatives from the Ministry of Health, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Development Programme, World Health Organization, and IntraHealth.
“This graduation of the first cohort is a remarkable and historic milestone for the South Sudan Public Health Institute,” says Alfred Okiria, IntraHealth’s South Sudan project director. “The fellowship program is an excellent tool for capacity building for the Ministry of Health and a great development to address some of the current skills and competency challenges in South Sudan’s public health workforce. This is a big step in the right direction for the health systems strengthening interventions for the country.”
SSPHI hopes to continue to build health worker skills and competencies and close the existing skills gap in the country. They have honed their curriculum based on lessons learned with the first cohort and built much-need training capacity for the next round of fellows.
Oniba Opio contributed reporting for this article.