Innovative Policy Solutions with Real-World Applications
On April 9th, students called in via Zoom from all over the world to present their final policy proposals for how to address COVID-19 in Cambodia, Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda. Dr. Chris Plowe, Director of the Duke Global Health Institute, joined Black and Bisson as judges. The students’ presentations were rich in context, insightful, and reflective of collaborative learning.
Team Cambodia highlighted the potential for infringement on civil liberties by the autocratic government’s COVID-19 response and proposed to elevate and strengthen the National Public Health Emergency Operation Center’s role in addressing the pandemic. Team Guatemala demonstrated constraints related to historical underfunding of the health sector, and proposed policy additions to strengthen community health worker networks for screening and education; monitor and evaluate the receipt and benefits of stimulus and government aid packages; and increase future financing for health. Team Kenya utilized the “Three Delays Framework” to present their proposed plan for strengthening emergency health systems capacity, including developing efficient nationwide distribution of supplies to all 47 counties; increasing the number of trained healthcare workers; and improving communication within and between counties and the Ministry of Health. Team Nigeria presented its policy and financing recommendations based on a deep-dive into the epidemiology, realities of the health system, and current preparedness of the country. This included proposing immediate interventions to limit virus transmission, prepare the health system, and flatten the curve; and long-term policy recommendations focused on vaccine development, access, and financing. Team Uganda built on existing pandemic surveillance and response systems to propose expansions in health education, supportive cash transfers, and inclusive feedback from civil society and communities to strengthen the government’s response.
“It has been rewarding to work with Gavin’s students over the last two years, providing guest lectures and leadership for the Policy Idol competition. This semester it was particularly inspiring to see how the students fully embraced the experience and adjusted their research and learning when COVID-19 disrupted their semester.” -Cristina Bisson, RTI Director of Health Systems
After the presentations, the Judges huddled in a Zoom breakout room while students greeted and congratulated each other through Zoom as they awaited the announcement. Everyone had done such great jobs! Which team would end up on top? With each country team proposal excelling in different areas, the judges declared that all teams were Policy Idol 2020 winners. Black made the announcement to virtual cheers. The camaraderie of the moment, felt through virtual connections, was real and a heart-warming conclusion to a semester rife with adversity.
A special thank you to Professor Yamey and his students; Duke teaching assistants Loren Barcenas, Yolande Pokam Tchuisseu, Armand Zimmerman; and all of the RTI experts who engaged with Duke students through this course over the last two years: Cristina Bisson, Maureen Black, Molly Chen, Karen Doll, Patrick Edwards, Elizabeth Fitch, Tere Ligorria, Carrie Ngongo, Rachel Nugent, Adeyemi Okunogbe, Martin Osumba, Katie Peel, and Taylor Williamson.
The students’ final policy presentations are available here.
Alison LeFew is a global health specialist with RTI’s Global Health Division and project manager for the RTI-Duke Global Development Initiative, a three-year effort that promotes working relationships among experts in key development sectors and provides technical and administrative support to facilitate new and improved partnerships. She leads the RTI-Duke global health working group and has coordinated and contributed to RTI’s technical engagement with Professor Yamey and his students.