Since Mali Health began our participatory quality improvement work nearly ten years ago, we have worked directly with 28 community health centers (CSComs) and 11 health districts.  Though we focus on overlooked peri-urban communities, we also adapted our approach for use by CSComs in rural communities so they could address the unique challenges that affect healthcare quality in their context.

Not long ago, Mali’s health authorities developed the first national quality improvement plan, which was implemented from 2018-2022. The plan addressed all three levels of the health system – hospital, reference, and community – but the community health system has seen the least amount of progress and implementation.

The plan includes quality improvement standards and tools, which we use in our work, but nationwide there have been challenges with implementation and adoption at the community level. For example, there are standards for the representation and participation of women and youth in different aspects of the community health system, but these standards are rarely followed and there are no mechanisms for assessing them. However, these are all problems that we have been working to solve with our CSCom partners on the ground for many years and our team has been eager to share those experiences with others.

Sharing lessons learned

For the past year, we have been working on plans for how we can extend the reach of our participatory quality improvement approach so that it can be available to more CSComs and communities across Mali. That has meant working closely with the General Directorate of Health and Public Hygiene (DGSHP) and the Sub-Directorate of Health Establishments and Regulations (SDESR).

In September, we were fortunate to participate in the review of the 2018 – 2022 national quality improvement strategic plan, during a national workshop held in Koulikoro. Alongside dozens of representatives from the health system and nearly two dozen NGO representatives, Dr. Bathily participated in an assessment of the implementation of the 2018-2022 national strategy and the development of recommendations to inform the next plan. During this workshop, Dr. Bathily was able to share the successes, challenges, and insights of our partner CSComs working to implement quality improvement plans at the community level.

Charting the path forward for the next national strategy

In October, the National Committee for the Management of the Quality of Health Care and Services, the unit within the DGSHP which is responsible for overseeing the national quality improvement strategic plan, met to discuss the results of the September meeting and to develop the roadmap for the development of the new plan. In this process, our Dr. Sogoba has served as the lead representative for technical and financial partners of the DGSHP. This is not the first opportunity for Dr. Sogoba to be a voice for the community health system at the national level.

This meeting laid out a series of workshops that would comprise the process of developing the new national quality improvement plan. Again, over 20 stakeholders from the nongovernmental sector have worked alongside health authorities to collaboratively develop the new plan. For example, it gives Dr. Bathily and Dr. Sogoba the opportunity to share how our approach aims to monitor and institutionalize the core value of youth and women’s participation in the health system, from the community and CSCom perspective. It also gives us the opportunity to advocate for the inclusion of patient voices and values in the evaluation process, by recommending that a patient satisfaction survey be added as a primary evaluation tool to assess changes in quality at health facilities.

The draft of the new “Strategic Plan for the Improvement of the Quality of Health Care and Services 2024 -2028” will be finalized at a workshop that is scheduled for the end of December. Once validated, the new plan will be shared in early 2024. We remain hopeful about the new additions to the plan, especially those that may be informed by the experiences of our CSCom partners, and look forward to strongly supporting the implementation of the new plan at the community level.