By Hailegebriel Endeshaw (Communications Officer with NIPN/EPHI)
All professionals who have been engaged in various careers need to upgrade their capacities regularly. This is generally known as professional development. Processes like upgrading, refreshing, training, and familiarizing oneself with new developments are given special emphasis in professional development. Professional development is of paramount importance in continuing one’s career growth and stepping up efforts to achieve one’s goals.
An individual can develop his/her profession through education, training, workshops, conferences, etc. If the given training or professional development endeavors are needed to be fruitful, many things can be considered as inputs. The most important one is the professional himself or herself, who takes the training or professional development course. A professional or an expert who stays long without having the regular updating of his/her profession is like a sword that has not been whetted.
The National Information Platform for Nutrition (NIPN) promotes evidence-based decision-making for nutrition and supports the implementation of the National Food and Nutrition Policy in Ethiopia.
NIPN is hosted by the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), but works under the national nutrition governance system and collaborates with many multi-sectoral nutrition stakeholders and partners of the National Food and Nutrition Policy and the National Food and Nutrition Strategy.
The task taken by NIPN needs serious effort and diligence. Taking this into consideration, NIPN has been engaged in the professional development or skill upgrading of partners and stakeholders. That’s why it has kept on providing regular trainings on building professional capacities.
Tsehay Kelemework is an instructor at Bahirdar University in the Amhara Region. She is one of the professionals who regularly attends the training and other career development programs of NIPN. She said she has taken trainings on Partnership Management, and Data Visualization.
Tsehay said that the training she received has helped her a lot in the activities she is carrying out along with her partners. “It has capacitated me to work with national and international institutions. For instance, I have become efficient at working with IFPRI,” Tsehay said.
Tsehay also said that the training being given by NIPN has given her the capacity to produce joint proposals with colleagues and win projects. “We have built our capacity to formulate joint grant proposals along with international (European and African) universities,” she said, adding that “particularly, the training on Partnership Management has enabled me to augment my confidence.”
Tsehay said that the training being given by NIPN is very helpful. But she suggests that, as all experts in almost similar fields trained together, it is good if the concerned body creates a platform that enables all to come together regularly for professional upgrading or refreshment. “This would make our training very fruitful. Let the capacity building and the issue of working together continue in an intensified manner,” she said.
Tsehay proposed that NIPN could provide more training on Leadership and Research Management.
Masresha Minuye is working for the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research as the Food Quality and Nutrition Research National Program Coordinator. He is one of the participants who regularly received training given by NIPN. Masresha recalled that he received various trainings like Data Analysis Using STATA, Data Visualization Using Power BI. Masresha said that the training he has taken has helped him a lot in his daily work. It enabled him to use the collected research data in transparent and meaningful ways, according to him. “I have learned that the data should be delivered in a manner that is transparent to readers and easily applicable by policy makers. I have learned that we should put research data in a website data repository,” Masresha said.
Regarding the change the training has brought to his work, Masresha said that he has developed a better understanding of utilizing data. “The training enabled me how I should use the research data in a much more convenient manner in my daily coordination responsibilities,” he said.
Masresha said that the trainings being given by NIPN regularly are very important and timely. “The topics picked for the training are very appropriate and timely.” He further said that NIPN should coordinate national food and nutrition related works in a better way and put the research works in a repository… Masresha has a view that it would be good if NIPN could think of giving training on “The Evaluation and Development Program”.
Abraham Aregai is working for the Tigray Health Research Institute. He is among the experts who regularly receive training given by NIPN. Abraham said that he has taken training on Scientific Reading and Writing, Introduction to Analysis Using STATA, Introduction to GIS, and Power-BI for Visualization.
Speaking of the benefit he got from the various trainings supplied by NIPN, Abraham said that the training helped him to write and analyze data from secondary data sources properly. “The training helped me to see the changes in the environment regarding the same disease. I have also shared with my colleagues the major points of the training I received here,” Abraham said.
Abraham is of the opinion that if more training on different topics is given, it will be much more helpful. He proposed training under the following topics: Grant Writing, STATA, GIS at an advanced level, Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.
He said that it would be good if NIPN thought of involving more regional institutes during such important training, as it helps to boost their effectiveness and quality.
Coordinator of NIPN-Ethiopia, Aregash Samuel (Dr.), said that different capacity-building trainings have been provided to nutrition researchers, media houses, and partners, including the NIPN and EPHI teams. She said that the training focused on developing skills to increase the capacity of NIPN’s team to better serve the needs of nutrition researchers. The training also focuses on using media to communicate health and health-related scientific evidence.
Speaking of the outcome, the NIPN-Ethiopia Coordinator said that following the training given on various occasions, NIPN’s teams have been able to use the new skills and knowledge gained from the training to make great strides in research, media relations, and partnership activities. “Our nutrition researchers have acquired new skills to analyze national nutrition data, generate evidence, and use an internationally designed tool called LiST (Lives Saved Tool). Our media team has used their improved communication skills to write newsletters and update the NIPN social media and website on the progress of our research,” she said.
Aregash said that in analyzing the existing data and evidence to respond to the policy questions, the capacity of researchers needs to be built. That’s why NIPN has been engaged in providing various capacity building trainings. NIPN 2.0 has planned to provide nine trainings during the project period. It is to be recalled that more than six trainings were provided during NIPN 1.0.
NIPN has not implemented any assessment methods so far regarding the evaluation of the trainings being given. But after every training, it has been collecting views and comments from trainees. Apart from that, “we hear informally that researchers have benefited from the training,” Dr. Aregash said.
NIPN-Ethiopia has provided training on various subjects since 2020. In 2020, a training was given to researchers drawn from different organizations under the theme, “the best ways to provide evidence and interact with policy and decision makers”, according to Aregash.
The other training was also given to program officers drawn from sectoral offices in 2021 on Project Planning, implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation. Dr. Aregash said that so far, three trainings have been given to private and public media staff and PR officers from multi-sectoral offices on “Access to Health Research Information” in October 2021.
Trainings given in 2023 include, among others, Data Visualization: Introduction to Creating Dashboards using Power BI for EPHI staff; Writing Potentially Fundable Proposals; Partnership Management; Basic STATA training; Systematic review and Meta-analysis; Data Visualization: Introduction to Creating Dashboards using Power BI for MER SC. (NIPN)