The Pacific Open Learning Health Net: Providing Health Education in the Pacific

The Pacific Open Learning Health Net: Providing Health Education in the Pacific

Steven Baxendale (World Health Organization, Fiji)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5780-9.ch059
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Abstract

Online learning offers the opportunity for health workers to improve their knowledge and skills while serving in remote locations. Through online continuing professional development, they are able to stay abreast of the latest developments in medicine. Convenient Internet access also provides the opportunity for health professionals to participate with the global medical community in research and consult with both peers and experts from around the world. This chapter describes the experiences of the Pacific Open Learning Health Net (POLHN) in providing online, face-to-face, and blended professional education to health professionals in 12 developing Pacific island countries. The chapter reviews the establishment of learning centers with Internet access in hospitals, nursing schools, and health centers.
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Background

Access to continuing professional development of health workers in Pacific Island countries has been limited due to reliance on face-to-face methods of training.

Even in countries where health professionals had access to some continuing education, there was little evidence of participation. Koleth (2006) surveyed health workers in three major cities in Fiji in 2006. He reported that only 54% of health workers in those three cities had ever engaged in any continuing education after receiving their degree or diploma. This figure is especially significant considering continuing education was defined as attending even one hour of a presentation or reading a journal.

However, the opportunity for health workforce to engage in continuing education directly impacts their ability to improve health services to Pacific islanders. In past decades, face-to-face teaching was the only option because Internet cost was too high, bandwidth too small, and access too limited. That has now changed. The cost of travel is on the increase while the cost of Internet continues to decrease. Online learning seems the most promising future direction for health-worker training in the Pacific.

The 12 developing Pacific Island countries (PICs) covered by The Pacific Open Learning Health Net (POLHN) spreads across 33 million square kilometers of ocean, an area more than three times the size of Europe. Most of the PICs are made up of small islands separated by vast distances of ocean. With the exception of Nauru, Niue and Pitcairn, all Pacific island countries and areas are made up of several or many islands. Some countries span a distance of several thousand kilometers. Kiribati for example stretches 5000 kilometers across the central-western Pacific.

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