Masterclass Series: ‘Leading and Managing in a Crisis’

By Andi Kezh, Task Force Intern

The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear just how essential global pandemic preparedness truly is. It’s not only activities like surveillance, vaccine development, and immunizations that are needed, however. Pandemic preparedness requires public health and community leaders to possess the leadership and management skills needed to effectively develop and execute health strategies in times of crisis.

A new resource aims to help leaders develop those skills.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response recently noted in their  COVID-19 pandemic findings that “community responses and local engagement have been vital resources in the response…but the potential for communities to shape the response at the decision-making table has been severely neglected.”

To ensure greater community engagement, The Task Force’s Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI) partnered with the Aspen Management Partnership for Health (AMP Health) on a series of masterclass sessions entitled “Leading and Managing in a Crisis.” This series is catered specifically toward global health professionals and community leaders to offer tools and skills on pandemic preparedness while they respond to COVID-19 and prepare for future epidemics and pandemics.

Programs such as PIVI and AMP Health are leading the way in engaging with local partners and Community-Based Organizations in low- and middle-income countries to foster sustainable responses to future pandemic threats,  and secure maintained and strong health systems for our future,” said Malembe Ebama, PIVI Epidemiologist.

PIVI, a private-public partnership with low-and middle-income countries to establish sustainable influenza vaccine accessibility, and AMP Health, a private-public partnership focused on improving health systems through government collaboration, began their eight-week series of virtual masterclass sessions in August. Since 2013, PIVI has provided more than 4.2 million doses of flu vaccine, as well as technical assistance, and has worked in partnership with Ministries of Health in countries like Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nicaragua, Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Uganda, and Armenia. The masterclass participants are primarily from ministries of health or health workers leading seasonal influenza programs in these countries.

The first two sessions covered core subjects on  pandemic preparedness and the remaining six topics were selected  by participants, including effective decision-making, planning, prioritizing in times of uncertainty, team effectiveness and productivity, delegation of tasks and empowerment.

A key element of the training was the recognition that in uncertain and tumultuous times of crisis, people are often forced to work and lead in new and challenging ways. AMP Health emphasized that building management and leadership skills for global health professionals at the local level is not only critical for weathering the current pandemic, but will also improve preparedness for the next global health crisis.

“Before the class, I had many problems managing how to introduce my ideas and decisions to my supervisors,” said participant Oyungerel Darmaa, a Division of National Influenza Surveillance epidemiologist from Mongolia. “Now I can better manage the relationship with my supervisors and colleagues, and be a leader who is more understanding and makes the best decisions.”

Likewise, fellow participant Alfred Adouba found the experience valuable.

“The masterclass series helped me better organize my time, set my priorities, and use appropriate leadership styles according to different situations,” said Adouba, a National Institute of Public Hygiene employee from Côte d’Ivoire.

The interactive masterclass series was designed specifically for a global audience, with offerings for both English and French participants.

PIVI is exploring other tools to help equip partners in countries where PIVI works.

Header photo: A sub-county public health nurse in Njoro sub county, Kenya noting down the expectations of participants during an influenza training supported by PIVI and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Photo credit: Reyoh Photography.

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