First ReLAB-HS Global Rehabilitation Leadership Institute Builds Community of Leaders to Drive Change

24 October 2022

By Hanaa Ahsan and Khushbu Balsara for ReLAB-HS

Three principles — shared vision, strategy, and collaboration — were on the agenda for rehabilitation stakeholders at the inaugural offering of the Global Rehabilitation Leadership Institute (GRLI), a course designed by Learning, Acting, and Building for Rehabilitation in Health Systems (ReLAB-HS) to strengthen leadership for rehabilitation-inclusive health systems.

The first offering was held in Munyonyo, Uganda between September 18-24 and included 55 participants from all four ReLAB-HS partner countries: Burma, Pakistan, Uganda, and Ukraine, as well as from Ethiopia.

Group of people in front of a building pose for a photo

Inaugural Global Rehabilitation Leadership Institute cohort pose for a group photo in Munyonyo, Uganda.
Photo by Nukhba Zia

The GRLI’s goal is to build leadership capacity to address the need for rehabilitation integration, inclusive of assistive technology, into low- and middle-income countries’ health-systems.

“I have got different tools that will enable me to make an evidence-informed analysis to identify the gaps,” said Christine Tusiime, Principal Physiotherapist from Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services of Uganda (CoRSU) Hospital. “Basing [this analysis] on the identified gaps we can then make an action plan that will help improve the service delivery that we are doing.”

Participants included stakeholders working in the health systems and rehabilitation sector across the government, private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and academia. The GRLI provided a platform for key rehabilitation stakeholders and ReLAB-HS partners to strengthen ties to local, regional, and international colleagues, and laid the foundation for a global network in health systems.

These interactive sessions on rehabilitation, leadership, advocacy, communication, and policy development and implementation developed participants’ leadership capacity to enhance access to rehabilitation services in order to improve population health and well-being.

“This training is very timely, and it is going to help me on how to start change in the new environment to move away from the traditional way we have been doing things, which needs to change, how to analyze the problem and identify the gaps and develop an action plan that will create buy-in from the different stakeholders,” said Okello Peter Okede, Principal Hospital Administrator, Ministry of Health, Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, Uganda.

Training faculty included members of the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit, the Alliance for Health Policy & Systems Research, Humanity & Inclusion, Makerere University, Miraclefeet, and the World Health Organization. Speakers led sessions on rehabilitation, systems thinking, rehabilitation interventions, data and evidence-based decision-making, finance and economics, advocacy, communications, and policy.

“With the global momentum for integrating rehabilitation into health systems, which Rehabilitation 2030 has brought, we have a real opportunity to make a difference. However, we need to move beyond a simple shopping-list of ‘what works’ and articulate a strategic framework to address the different and seemingly competing goals across the system to promote coherent and consistent decision-making,” said Dr. Abdulgafoor Bachani, ReLAB-HS Director, in his welcoming remarks.

People sit and stand around a table talking

Dr. Cyrus Engineer, Professor of the Practice, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, interacts with Global Rehabilitation Leadership Institute participants. Photo by Khushbu Balsara

At the core of the GRLI was leadership training provided by Dr. Cyrus Engineer, Professor of the Practice, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Through a series of lectures and skill-building activities, Engineer provided participants with the skills and tools needed for developing a shared vision, formulating a good strategy, and establishing effective collaboration.

“It is a clear and simple picture of what the desirable future looks like, and it inspires people and creates new levels of energy,” said Engineer, when teaching about the importance of a compelling shared vision.

A session on “Leadership in Practice” included special guests, Dr. Olive Kobusingye from the Makerere University School of Public Health in Uganda and Dr. Zafar Mirza, the former Minister of Health of Pakistan. As leaders in their respective fields, Kobusignye and Mirza provided participants with insight into their leadership experiences and trajectories, how to deal with competing interests, and how to get constituencies aligned towards a shared vision.

“When you know what you are looking for, you see problems as opportunities,” said Kobusingye.

“Leadership is first and foremost an attitude and not necessarily a position of authority. It is underpinned by adoption of well-established principles of human effectiveness,” added Mirza.

Hanaa Ahsan (left), ReLAB-HS Global Rehabilitation Leadership Institute coordinator, leads a session on “Leadership in Practice” with Dr. Olive Kobusingye, Makerere University (right), and Dr. Zafar Mirza, Former Minister of Health, Pakistan. Photo by Abdul Bachani

The culmination of a week of learning were the participants’ market-style presentations to faculty judges, where each group had to put their leadership training into action and develop an action plan to strengthen health systems and the integration of rehabilitation and assistive technology in their respective settings.

Global Rehabilitation Leadership Institute (GRLI) participants present their action plans to strengthen health systems through market-style presentations for the GRLI faculty judges. Photo by Sarah Magoba

The GRLI developed participants’ competencies on understanding rehabilitation and health systems, developing a shared vision for rehabilitation, formulating a strategy for integrating rehabilitation within health systems, and multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary collaboration. These competencies support the ReLAB-HS mission to ensure that rehabilitation is prioritized and resources are allocated to rehabilitation services, rehabilitation services are integrated into health systems, and local leadership is inspired to take ownership of the growing need for rehabilitation and inclusive health systems.

A woman stands in front of a group of people

Anna Cuthel, Technical Director, MiracleFeet, presents a regional case study on Clubfoot in Africa. Photo by Khushbu Balsara

“I’m honored to have been selected for GRLI leadership training by Johns Hopkins University, and I look forward to materializing our learnings through the NUST platform to make rehabilitation accessible and affordable in Pakistan,” said Barira Hanif, Head of the Office of Sustainability at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Pakistan.

After the course, participants felt motivated, excited, and well-equipped to apply their GRLI training to drive change at their organizations and support the transformation of health systems in their respective countries. Additionally, participants found deep value in networking with global colleagues and learning from shared experiences and were appreciative of the GRLI for building a community of leaders.

GRLI 2022 has paved the way for a generation of rehabilitation and health systems leaders, and ReLAB-HS will continue this effort by delivering future offerings in our partner countries and by expanding our GRLI alumni network.

ReLAB-HS is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development.