Effective public health leadership, particularly in the face of global pandemics such as COVID, directly impacts national public health response capabilities during public health emergencies. Strengthening Public health leadership is an essential component of the UK Health Security Agency, International Health Regulation (IHR) Strengthening Project triple mandate.
Target outcomes of IHR Project leadership development activity, includes the equipment and empowerment of public health leaders (especially women) in IHR partner countries to implement all IHR core capacity areas, across all IHR core domains. The Project is also aimed at developing public health leadership to establish and strengthen public health networks for improved IHR coordination, at the national and regional level.
The Executive Programme for Global Health Leadership, delivered by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), is a renowned programme with the aim of developing, training and supporting the mentorship of leaders in public health, specifically with a focus on global health security. It achieves this by offering Fellows the opportunity to develop skills in in leadership, partnership-working and health diplomacy, providing them with the tools, networks, and insights to create effective public health policy in their countries and wider regions.
This case study outlines the collaboration which took place between the IHR Project and the Executive Leadership Programme teams, to fund the places for 5 key public health personnel from partner national public health institutes (NPHIs) in Africa and Asia for the Programme’s academic year 2020/2021.
The IHR Strengthening Project team identified 5 public health professionals from individuals from NPHIs in Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Senior Public Health Advisor leads embedded in each IHR Project partner country adopted the task of engaging with NPHI counterparts to nominate public health personnel within their organisations to apply for a place on the programme. The IHR Project engaged closely with the Executive Leadership Programme team to determine suitability and establish eligibility requirements. After the candidate list was agreed, candidates were directed to complete an online application, with shortlisted candidates being invited to interview. Five Fellows in total successfully passed interview stage and were enrolled onto the programme with full funding from the IHR Project.
Alignment with the IHR Project
The Project team engaged with colleagues from the Executive Programme for Global Health Leadership to ensure alignment of key project aims, objectives and principles into the Executive Programme’s strategic approach. This was achieved by sharing the IHR Project Theory of Change with the IHR Project Executive Programme team, resulting in bespoke programme delivery which not only met Fellows’ professional requirements but also, IHR project requisites.
The global pandemic resulted in the Executive Programme Global Health Leadership being redesigned and adapted to an entirely remote delivery with the key components and learning objectives for each segment being reflected as a combination of workshops, high level speakers and interactive exercises alongside the standard Executive Programme bespoke activities of personal and professional development; coaching, mentoring and distance learning modules. All sessions were delivered via Zoom, meaning Fellows were able to contribute to their national COVID response activities.
Whilst on the course, Fellows benefitted from personal and professional development through working with Executive Coaches, distance-learning resources including online learning modules, allocation of an academic mentors, access to sessions led by world class public health experts and general programme support through the Executive Programme coordinating team.
The Programme’s performance has been measured through its monitoring and evaluation framework. This has included a baseline and post-course satisfaction survey. The M&E review has also included the use of post session feedback questionnaires and finally an independent qualitative review.
To date, Fellows describe having developed deeper insight into self and others through the programme, gaining confidence in their abilities and power to affect change, and implement different ways of working and new styles of leadership. They have learnt to forge personal and professional relationships with peers and becoming part of a global network of like-minded leaders.
As a result, the Fellows have felt the benefits of the programme despite the remote delivery, including having more influence over decision-making, seeing their own team members develop and progress because of their new leadership skillset, and some have already moved into more senior positions since the programme start in September. A common theme that they emphasise is how the programme has enabled them to reflect upon and strengthen their leadership skills.
Feedback from IHR Project funded Fellows has been encouraging and positive.
“The Programme has facilitated me in developing confidence to tackle challenging situations requiring leadership and to make necessary decisions within an unclear and volatile environment, handle difficult circumstances, and manage stress. It has developed my capacity to be agile and respond effectively ‘in the moment’ to emerging situations.”
Dr Sabeen Afzal, Deputy Director (Technical), Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation & Coordination, Islamabad, Pakistan
“The course has also provided me with an opportunity to interact with my fellow cohort members from all over the world hence allowing us to exchange lessons, share challenges and solutions drawn from a very diverse world of health architecture. Additionally, the programme offers an opportunity to work with a professional mentor and a leadership coach. This has helped to re-shape my leadership skills and personal qualities.”
Dr Justin Maeda, Interim Head of the Division for Surveillance and Disease Intelligence at Africa CDC
“Let me begin by saying that it has been an interesting and enlightening journey. Every moment of interactions both at the Fellowship sessions and with the both the Mentor and or the Coach has been quite impressive. I am very grateful to Public Health England for this great opportunity of sponsoring me through this programme. This has given me the opportunity to be one of the 52 fellows in the Global Health Programme of LSHTM. It is indeed a rare opportunity and must always be mindful of. I have learnt to spend more time critically thinking of how to get the best out of every situation.”
Dr Nwando Mba, Director of Public Health Laboratory Services and Director for the National Reference Laboratory Gaduwa at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control
“With this course, I have been able to develop my knowledge and acquire critical skills and strategies for self-awareness and reflections, and the instruments and tools for global health leadership and policies.”
Dr Merawi Tegegne,Incident Manager for Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo and High-Risk Neighbouring countries, Africa CDC Headquarter, Emergency Operation Centre (PH-EOC)
Next Steps and Key Learnings
The were some instances were Fellows struggled to engage fully with the programme due to its remote modality as well as their own commitments to the ongoing domestic COVID response. In one case this resulted in a Fellow having to be withdrawn from the Programme meaning although 5 Fellows were enrolled only 4 Fellows completed the Programme. In future mitigating actions could include incorporating more ‘flex’ time into session scheduling to support the delivery of commitments by Fellows or exploring targeted learning approaches, crafted to the learning style of Fellows who appear to be withdrawn from the programme. Positive learning included the rich and diverse representation of Fellows and course contributors throughout the programme and the supportive energetic learning environment achieved by Fellows and Programme staff. All lessons learnt will go towards the creation of an enhanced Executive Leadership Programme in future for the development of strengthened public leadership capacity for improved global health security through IHR compliance.
1-Photo of previous Executive Programme Cohort