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Becton, Dickinson and Company: ‘Wellness Centres’ to relieve the pressure on nurses in sub-Saharan Africa

Summary

This innovative project initiated by the International Council of Nurses in 2006 and supported by Becton, Dickinson and Company, in collaboration with various national governments, established Wellness Centres for healthcare workers and their families as an incentive for African nurses to stay in their jobs and in their home countries.

Wellness Centres are a symbol and instrument of care for demoralised health workers. They offer confidential voluntary counselling and testing, treatment for HIV and tuberculosis, post-exposure prophylaxis and prevention of mother-to-child transmission services. In addition, health workers can learn about stress management and occupational safety, take up training opportunities, and find other resources for continuous professional development.

The first public partner in this project was the Government of Swaziland. Project outcomes in the Kingdom of Swaziland are impressive: to date 77% of the Swazi health workforce has benefited from the Wellness Centre with a continuous increase of uptake of services.

“The Ministry of Health has integrated wellness into the national personnel policy and provides the Centre with medical supplies as well as other support”, explains Renuka Gadde, Director of Global Health at Becton, Dickinson and Company. National buy-in and ownership is crucial with respect to sustainability of the Wellness Centres. A project which is part of a national approach has better chances for continuous funding from public and private sources.

The Swaziland Wellness Centre project has become a model in the region: Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi and Uganda have opened or are in the process of establishing similar centres. The partnership facilitates peer visits as an instrument to create interest of other countries in this model. “It is much easier to cooperate with national governments if you have not only an idea to present, but something practical to show as well,” Gadde concludes.