Bridging Knowledge Frontiers: The Role of JLN’s Strategic Communication for UHC Planning Tool

JLN Network Manager

Authors:Oswald Essuah-Mensah, Rahul S Reddy KadarpetaJames Soki, Isha Sharma

JLN’s technical initiatives are meticulously crafted to foster knowledge exchanges that adeptly address the priorities and needs of the member countries. These engagements embody practitioner-to-practitioner and cross-country learning, skillfully facilitated by technical experts and revered thought leaders. The focus is on delving into specific thematic issues, culminating in collective problem-solving endeavours. The result is a global knowledge product, curated from innovative ideas and best practices from tacit knowledge of the policymakers and practitioners transcending geographical boundaries. This transformative process empowers participating leaders to navigate the intricacies of healthcare challenges with a comprehensive global perspective. It not only fosters a profound sense of solidarity but also cultivates a shared commitment to the discourse on Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

JLN has so far produced 45 plus knowledge products in over a decade, and in more than 30 instances these have been adapted and implemented to address health systems issues in countries. Strategic Communication for Universal Health Coverage: Planning Tool is one such knowledge product. This tool was an output of a JLN Learning Exchange “Institutionalizing Explicit National Priority Setting Learning Processes” developed by the JLN member countries in collaboration with the Health Finance and Governance (HFG) Project, with funding from the USAID. It was developed drawing lessons and experiences from eight-member countries including Ghana to help UHC policy champions and communicators in the design of comprehensive strategic communication plans. It guides communicators through a structured plan, outlining process and includes guiding questions specifically related to strategic communication for UHC. The tool was adapted and implemented by the Ghana National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) in the country for the design of comprehensive strategic communication plans for the digitalization of member registration for expanding population coverage. NHIA was established under the National Health Insurance Act 2003, Act 650, later revised to ACT 2012, Act 852 with a mission to ensure basic healthcare services for all residents. It has the function of securing the implementation of a national health insurance policy that ensures access to basic healthcare services to all residents to attain universal health insurance coverage. Enrollment or registration of eligible households is an integral and crucial part of expanding coverage. This requires simplifying enrollment procedures, information campaigns, subsidies, user-friendly registration processes, and community engagement. Tailoring these strategies to Ghana country context and fostering collaboration between the NHIA with various stakeholders was vital for success.

Learnings from several countries suggest that digital technological innovations could bridge access gaps and streamline the registration or enrollment process. As part of expanding population coverage, in December of 2022, the NHIA embarked on a digitalization of member registration. The MyNHIS App was developed to align with the government’s digitalization agenda. This underscores a commitment to leveraging technology to enhance healthcare delivery and accessibility, aiming to boost membership and advance towards UHC. Research had proven that some barriers to enrolment included the distance of registration points to members, and long queues that had to be navigated to enable new registrations or renewals. The cornerstone of this digitalization drive was the seamless integration of mobile and app-based platforms for member registration and renewal.

With the implementation of the project planned from September 2021 to December 2021, it was important to ensure proper communication to the different stakeholders not limited to citizens, residents, healthcare providers and civil society organizations.   “Ghana being a member of the JLN since 2010, tapped into the JLN Knowledge products database and identified the Strategic Communication for Universal Health Coverage: Planning Tool. This tool provided a comprehensive framework for crafting strategic communication plans, tailored to promote digital products and services crucial for achieving UHC.”

The communication strategy centered on convenience, speed, and empowerment of individuals through cell phones (for mobile renewals) and smartphones for the APP users. The communication was designed to fortify and amplify the policy, and digital innovations designed to attain UHC in Ghana. The intervention was presented as a new product to ensure convenience to members for efficient, convenient, and faster registration. The tool was modified and tailored towards marketing digital products and services offered by the scheme. Some of these were – the mobile renewal of membership (*929#) and the mobile app (MyNHIS App) for new registration, renewals, and linkage with the national Ghana Card) and for use with third parties as well. A major part of the tool was used especially with the illustrative communication channels where key messages were passed on to both primary and secondary audiences using traditional electronic media and the new media (social media channel)

NHIA’s strategy unfolded in several well-orchestrated steps, from identifying the technological gaps to setting up a dedicated project team, and from developing culturally resonant key messages to piloting and large-scale rollout. A significant aspect of this strategy was the local translation of key messages, ensuring inclusivity and understanding across Ghana’s diverse linguistic landscape. The identification of key messengers, such as the corporate affairs directorate and regional and district Public Relation Officers, was crucial in conveying these messages effectively. As shown in figure 1.Fig 1: NHIA Strategy Implementation Journey: Steps and Key Components.

The tool was detailed and easy to adopt at the country level. It highlights the importance of sustaining effective communication and government support in driving UHC. The mobile renewal service in Ghana has since won three prestigious awards and serves as the most convenient means to actively stay on the NHIS for about 80% of the members. The Mobile App has over 77,000 people signing up for themselves and third parties since its launch in December 2022. NHIA plans to use the tool as a communication guide to the NHIS as the scheme continues to develop new digital inventions to drive its membership.

JLN’s exemplary support to member country-driven knowledge exchange including adapting and implementing knowledge products advance the mission towards UHC. The transformative journey of Ghana’s National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) exemplifies the power of knowledge exchange and strategic communication in driving policy initiatives towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC). JLN’s “Strategic Communication for Universal Health Coverage: Planning Tool” served as a resource in crafting a comprehensive communication strategy for their digitalization project. However, the journey doesn’t end here. Continuous evaluation and adaptation, informed by peer review and shared experiences, are essential to keep pace with the evolving digital landscape and public health needs.

For more information on JLN Knowledge products, read our blogUnlocking Insights: Exploring the Pinnacle of Knowledge – JLN’s Most Accessed Gems” To access these invaluable resources and guidance on their adaptation and implementation, visit JLN’s Knowledge Products Database here

Join JLN Knowledge Product Showcase Series Webinars which are an effort to amplify the reach and impact of JLN Knowledge Products, and to create awareness surrounding JLN’s recently concluded and ongoing initiatives, opening avenues for greater exposure.

About the Authors: Oswald Essuah – Mensah, Ag. Director, Corporate Affairs National Health Insurance Authority Ghana; Rahul S Reddy Kadarpeta is the Executive Director, JLN., James Soki, is Program Manager, JLN and  Isha Sharma is Program Officer, JLN.