News and stories

The benefits of mentoring in health education

Nov, 2017

Tanzania is one of 57 countries identified by the WHO as facing a human resources for health (HRH) crisis with an estimated shortage of 181,100 healthcare workers in the country. Currently in Tanzania, there are fewer than 4 nurses and midwives per 10,000 people, compared with the WHO optimal ratio of 16 per 10,000 people.


Mentorship is a novel technique to address systemic problems in health education such as poor morale and strenuous working conditions. Primary healthcare personnel play an important role in increasing the accessibility of healthcare, specifically in low- and middle-resourced communities. One of the best ways to enhance primary healthcare in vulnerable areas, such as rural Tanzania, is by creating mentorship programs for nurses and midwives. Finding ways to improve healthcare worker training has always been among the major priorities of Touch Foundation’s approach.


In alliance with WHO guidelines, Touch Foundation views training, clinical mentoring and supportive supervision of nurses and midwives as an effective strategy for improving the retention of healthcare workers and improving the overall strength of the Tanzanian healthcare system. Dr. Renae Stafford, Touch’s Program Director of Academic and Clinical Services, co-authored two articles, ( (, highlighting the great potential in clinical mentorship of midwives and nurses. Our Treat & Train program incorporates mentoring and preceptorship as a means to enhance clinical safety and promote professional communication, problem solving and crisis management. This will allow communities to achieve sustainable results when improving health and providing quality health services.


The training and mentoring of midwives and nurses is particularly beneficial in assuring antenatal, delivery, emergency obstetric and post-natal services to improve maternal and newborn health in low-resource settings, like the Lake Zone of Tanzania. With nearly half of all Tanzanian women giving birth at home without the care of a skilled healthcare worker, maternal and newborn death is all too frequent. In fact, a woman in Tanzania is 80 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than a woman in the United States. Through our Treat & Train program, we have trained maternal healthcare workers in Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care. Well-trained healthcare workers form an important link to our Mobilizing Maternal Health program, where emergency transport has led to a 27% decrease in maternal deaths.


Aug, 2017

Rheumatic Heart Disease is a preventable cardiovascular condition that is rare in the U.S. but still causes hundreds of thousands of deaths each year in low-resource settings with weak health systems. It begins with a case of untreated strep throat.

A case of strep throat is no stranger to school-aged children in the United States. If treated with antibiotics, this common bacterial infection is relatively harmless and uncomplicated. But for people in countries like Tanzania, it’s not that simple. Cases of strep throat may be left untreated because basic health services cannot easily be reached and, over time, this spirals into an inflammatory reaction of the heart valves called acute rheumatic fever, which then induces rheumatic heart disease (RHD). RHD disproportionately affects young adults in the prime of their lives and can be especially fatal for pregnant women.

Renae Stafford, Touch’s Program Director of Academic and Clinical Services, co-authored an article published in March in Global Health that compiles information to help us better understand how to treat and prevent RHD in Tanzania and Uganda. The study found that nearly 2% of schoolchildren in Tanzania and Uganda are affected by RHD. Moreover, deaths from RHD persist even in the presence of care with up to 27% of patients dying in surgical wards. Poor infrastructure and medical supplies, insufficiently trained healthcare workers, and other weaknesses in the health system contributed to these poor outcomes. Additionally, a lack of patient knowledge, stigma, and a history of poor interaction with healthcare workers mean that patients often don’t seek care until it’s too late. Ultimately, the Global Heart article stresses that there remains a great need for high-quality, up-to-date data on RHD, especially within low-income countries like Tanzania.

At Touch Foundation, we are committed to working with our partners to protect people in Tanzania and internationally from dying from this preventable yet fatal cardiovascular condition. With the support of Medtronic Foundation, Touch is tackling RHD by ensuring the health system is equipped to prevent, diagnose, and treat patients, especially vulnerable children and pregnant women, by conducting health worker training, upgrading equipment at health facilities, and hosting strep screening days at schools. Read more about how we are addressing non-communicable diseases like RHD here.

Read the full article: Annesinah H. Moloi, Sumaya Mall, Mark E. Engel, Renae Stafford, Zhang Wan Zhu, Liesl J. Zühlke, David A. Watkins, The Health Systems Barriers and Facilitators for RHD Prevalence, Global Heart, Volume 12, Issue 1, 2017, Pages 5-15.e3, ISSN 2211-8160,