Can we adapt the CHEPSAA courses to better support health system leaders?
CHEPSAA launched its two open access courses – Introduction to Complex Health Systems and Introduction to Health Policy and Systems Research – in January 2015. Since then, these courses have been downloaded from more than 60 countries and have been adapted and taught in settings as varied as Kenya, Ghana, India, China, Bangladesh, the Philippines and South Africa. The courses are often attended by diverse students, ranging from aspirant or established researchers and educators, to health system managers and those working in non-governmental organisations. Working in partnership with the Resilient and Responsive Health Systems (RESYST) consortium, we are now going to explore if it will be possible to develop a version of the CHEPSAA courses that is specifically targeted at leaders and strategic managers in the health system.
This process will kick off with a workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 4-6 April. The workshop is funded by RESYST and hosted by the Centre for Health Policy, University of the Witwatersrand. RESYST and CHEPSAA share some partner organisations and within its governance work theme RESYST has a particular interest in leadership in health policy implementation processes.
A mix of educators and health system managers from Africa and beyond will attend the workshop. The idea is not to abandon the current versions of the courses, which are much loved and appropriate for diverse groups of students, but to explore the addition of a leadership and strategic management focus.
Some of the educators and managers are familiar with the CHEPSAA courses, while the courses are new to the other participants. Some of the educators also have more experience than others in adapting courses for health system leaders and strategic managers. We hope this diversity will both anchor the meeting, by bringing a clear sense of what the CHEPSAA courses are and what they contain, and facilitate the inclusion of new thinking and perspectives.
Attending to needs and experiences
Teaching can be defined as the process of attending to people’s needs, experiences and feelings and then, building on these, making specific interventions to help them to learn certain things. Our workshop will follow a similar underlying logic.
To understand relevant needs and experiences we will begin by asking what is leadership and strategic management? This discussion, in which the health system managers will play a key part, will seek to flesh out the key roles of leaders and strategic managers in the health system and the knowledge, mind-sets, skills and competences they require to successfully fulfil these roles.
Le Deist and Winterton’s (2005) work on competence will be a key input into this discussion. They argue that any job requires both cognitive competences (e.g. knowledge and understanding) and functional competences (e.g. applied skills). In addition, for an individual to be effective at doing a job requires social competence (e.g. appropriate behaviours and attitudes), as well as meta-competences (e.g. learning how to learn). Meta-competences are different because they make it possible to acquire the other substantive competences.
This discussion on the nature of leadership and strategic management and the key competences that leaders and strategic managers require will hopefully begin to give us a good idea of what we should be teaching if we want to more specifically address this target audience.
To further illuminate needs and experiences, we will hear from educators who are not using the CHEPSAA modules about how their courses address issues of leadership and strategic management, while those who have used the CHEPSAA modules will also do presentations on how they think the courses already address these topics and how they have adapted the courses already to speak better to these themes.
Making specific interventions
Through the above discussions we will be asking: What is leadership and strategic management? How are other courses addressing leadership and strategic management? How are the CHEPSAA courses tackling leadership and strategic management? Therefore, what is clearly already well covered and what are the priority gaps that we can try to fill in the further development of the CHEPSAA courses?
Much of the rest of the workshop will then be spent working on more detailed ideas or “specific interventions” around new content that could be added and how this content could be delivered; methods of assessment linked to this new content and appropriate for leadership and strategic management competences; and ways of encouraging workplace-based learning, which is essential for busy executives and important for contextualising learning beyond the textbook and classroom.
Alongside the development of these new ideas we will also ask what the implications for educators are: how well are we currently equipped to teach these new areas and what further self-development or support will we need to ensure that we can carry the courses in this new direction?
The CHEPSAA courses have been around for a while now, so the time is ripe to review them and to think in a structured way about how they have been used and adapted already, and how they could be developed in different directions.
In our next blog, we will update you on the outcome of this meeting. We also hope to feed our thinking into the processes of Health Systems Global’s Thematic Working Group on Teaching and Learning HPSR, and the discussions of the upcoming 5th Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Liverpool.
Ermin Erasmus, CHEPSAA coordinator