CORE Group Polio Project
This report summarises the proceedings of a September 22 2017 gathering of more than 70 child survival champions who gathered in Washington, DC, United States (US) to share successful approaches used across a spectrum of child health challenges to reach vulnerable children in insecure, fragile communities. Their goal was to start the conversation on how to transition the best practices of the CORE Group Polio Project (CGPP) to broader health interventions and public health challenges once funding for polio eradication ends in the next three to five years. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)'s flagship Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP), World Vision, PATH, The Communication Initiative, United Nations Foundation, JSI, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and PCI (Project Concern International)all collaborated with the CGPP to plan the workshop.
The four-hour meeting (see a video recording of select sessions, below) featured moderated panel discussions on the CGPP's Secretariat Model and CGPP strategies implemented in the field by frontline workers. Among those who shared their experiences were the CGPP Secretariat Directors from India, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya-Somalia, and Nigeria. After each panel discussion, smaller breakout sessions allowed participants to suggest opportunities to move the project's activities beyond polio to support the success of related interventions such as measles, malaria, nutrition, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). These sessions covered topics such as collaboration, behaviour change, strategic planning, community engagement, innovation, and next steps.
Specifically, participants in the first panel discussion on "Collaboration and the CORE Group Secretariat Model" described the model's grounding in the concepts of collaboration and flexibility to coordinate a group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) under the umbrella of a national Secretariat office with links to other partners and the government. "The model reaches deep into communities and builds upon the long history of in-country NGO expertise and connections to break down barriers to immunization by providing value and respect to communities....CGPP has consistently promoted and championed the inclusion and contributions of civil society to global polio eradication." The second panel looked at field implementation of the CGPP, which has included, for example, introduction of the use of community mobilisers - a central component of the global push to eradicate polio under the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). In India, the employment of these community mobilisers "changed the image of the project from a government programme to a people's program. Strategic involvement of religious leaders, children and men (through the Barber's Initiative) boosted the effectiveness of community mobilization. Simple and indigenous communication tools built trust." Similarly, in Nigeria, women have led the charge on mobiliation to build trust and underline the importance of every child being vaccinated and protected, even in security-compromised areas.
- "Working in collaboration and not in competition is the basis of the CGPP Secretariat Model, which benefitted from the expertise of local NGOs and support from the country governments. The Model could be applied to other health goals...
- The Secretariat Model has been highly impactful and cost effective: 15,000 community health workers support vaccination, mobilization and other efforts at a cost of 17 cents per recipient.
- NGOs have proven that they can meet and exceed expectations for delivering services by accessing marginalized communities and contributing high-quality data to inform programming.
- The strategies, best practices and innovative approaches utilized by CGPP are now mainstreamed in global polio eradication efforts: microplanning, child registries, community mobilization, behavior change communication, etc.
- Reaching every child in neglected, hard-to-reach and insecure communities is possible and is essential for achieving equity and reaching public health goals.
- Important lessons from community-based AFP [acute flaccid paralysis] surveillance, cross-border collaboration, independent campaign monitoring, data use, community engagement and mobilization should be sustained."
The way forward:
- "Community input is essential for an effective transition from polio eradication strategies to other health goals.
- NGOs, Civil Society and governments should actively identify opportunities to build upon well-developed skills and capacities of community workers.
- Programs should take advantage of the skills and confidence gained by thousands of community health workers, religious leaders and others to continue solving community problems.
- A working group from this workshop should be developed to advocate for and facilitate NGOs and governments adapting tools and approaches used by CGPP in the most vulnerable communities."
Participants concluded that this workshop is just the beginning of the conversation; much more needs to be done to maximise the potential of what CGPP can offer as the GPEI sunsets.
Email from Lydia Bologna to The Communication Initiative on October 25 2017; and CORE Group website, October 26 2017. Image credit: PCI (Project Concern International)