Bilingual Training Advances Vaccination Efforts Through Community Building

Vaccine cold storage facility in Nairobi, Kenya. December 12, 2023.

In May, Sabin’s Boost Community launched the fourth offering of its 14-week Advanced Community Activation Training (ACAT) in partnership with People Power Health (PPH), an organization that empowers healthcare professionals to work toward eliminating inequity. For the first time, the course is being offered in both French and English to reach some of our most engaged participants based in Francophone Africa. This bilingual approach and the peer-to-peer makeup of the course underscores Sabin’s commitment to building local capacity to address vaccine hesitancy and broaden immunization access in communities across the globe.   

The Boost team received more than 150 applications for the 10 available spots for the training. This growing demand underscores the importance and value of community engagement, especially for immunization professionals working in remote areas where access to healthcare resources is often limited.  

The ten teams of four to five individuals selected are based in the same organization or country and will collaborate throughout the program. Participants include immunization professionals from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, and Pakistan.  

Through this approach, we aimed at maximizing the impact of the training and building the skillset of individuals working to improve immunization rates and health outcomes in challenging environments. Many participants noted significant obstacles they’ve experienced first-hand when it comes to vaccine hesitancy, particularly pushback from religious leaders and men who were resistant to having their children vaccinated.  

The skills our participants learn will be vital to overcoming these kinds of challenges. Over three and a half months, ACAT participants will zero in on five key leadership practices that embody the craft of community organizing including:  

  • navigating the public narrative,  
  • relationship-building,  
  • structuring leadership teams,  
  • strategizing, and  
  • mobilizing into action.  

They’ll join weekly virtual sessions with coaches and peers to discuss these concepts and put what they learn to work on the ground. The training culminates in a final capstone project that has each team plan, recruit, and deliver a virtual or in-person training session to immunization professionals in their communities, all in service of better engaging at-risk groups, combating hesitancy, and expanding widespread immunization access.  

One of the facilitators for this current training Rita Akiki, a nursing director in Bierut and Boost Community fellow, took the community activation course in 2022. The skills she acquired through the training helped enhance her leadership capabilities to effectively serve her patients and supervise the nurses at her hospital. “Due to community activation, I realized this kind of communication is very helpful for the patients and also for the nurses,” she says. “We have become a more positive environment. The hospital is working as a unit, so everybody is helping each other, and we are all one. All this came through the learning and the communication.”  

Other previous participants of this training have gone on to lead efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, address vaccine hesitancy in their respective communities, galvanize support for immunization programs, and increase uptake of the human papilloma virus vaccine. 

We are excited to continue fostering local connections and empowering health care professionals to make a difference in their own communities. We look forward to showcasing some of the participants’ capstone projects on our website after the training comes to a close.  

Learn more about Sabin’s Boost Community.