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Establishing communities of practice to improve health policy, systems and reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health in West Africa

Nana Efua E. Afun
Grace E. Aye
Linda L. Yevoo
Sue Godt
Charity Binka
Vicky Okine
Irene A. Agyepong


Objectives: To explore and analyse factors that facilitate and inhibit the initiation and functioning of a national and transnational Community of Practice (CoP) for health policy and systems (HPS) and Reproductive, Maternal, New-born, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) in West Africa and to identify lessons for CoP interventions in similar multilingual low and middle-income contexts.
Design: A case study, with the case defined as processes, enablers and barriers to the initiation and functioning of a national and transnational CoP for HSP and RMNCAH in West Africa and drawing on a review and analysis of secondary data from the program, workshop, country team and project reports, and training sessions.
Setting: The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Participants: Professionals from two Anglophone (Ghana and Sierra Leone) and four Francophone (Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Niger e Senegal) ECOWAS countries.
Interventions: Training and mentoring of multi-disciplinary country teams supported by small research grants to undertake formative evaluation and advocacy of priority HPS and RMNCAH issues; support for CoP development within and across country teams.
Results: The desire to learn from peers and mentors was a major enabler of the process. Human and financial resource availability, competing demands for time, communication in the context of a Francophone-Anglophone official lan-guage divide and the arrival of COVID-19 were all constraints.
Conclusions: This study highlights the processes, achievements, and challenges of establishing country-level and transnational CoPs in West Africa. CoPs require sustained human and financial resource investments, communication and medium-to-long-term implementation support for sustainability and impact.