Published on Investing in Health

Well-managed knowledge is a boon for pandemic control

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Effective knowledge-sharing during pandemic needs to be just in time and demand-driven. Photo: Shutterstock Effective knowledge-sharing during pandemic needs to be just in time and demand-driven. Photo: Shutterstock

One valuable resource of a country or organization is its knowledge. The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated both the importance of timely knowledge and the need to manage it well. As the world faces the effects of the Omicron variant and the World Health Organization’s global pulse survey warns that essential health services continue to face disruptions across all major health areas in over 90 percent of countries with little to no improvement since early 2021, the less than optimal use of knowledge is not an option.

Decision makers across the globe have relied on timely knowledge to inform strategic decisions to mitigate the health and socioeconomic effects of the pandemic. In a fast-moving environment where information needs are constantly evolving and basic facts are sometimes in dispute, effectively managing knowledge can be a challenge.

We highlight three key lessons we have learned about managing knowledge more effectively during a public health crisis.

Effective knowledge-sharing needs to be just in time and demand-driven

A crisis warrants demand-driven knowledge that is just in time rather than just in case. To make this happen, it is essential to create regular learning platforms for stakeholders to share experiences and lessons learned, with a feedback loop to identify and fill remaining knowledge gaps, while ensuring consistency of messaging. It is far better to overshare knowledge than to risk under sharing it.

To promote an open exchange of ideas and fill knowledge gaps, our teams have organized virtual briefings providing the latest and most reliable knowledge and know-how to guide decision making combined with just-in-time webinars on topics addressing specific aspects of countries’ COVID-19 prevention and containment efforts. In the first 12 to 18 months of the pandemic, over 100 webinars were held, reaching more than 10,000 participants across the globe. 

The choice of webinar topics has been demand-driven, the fruit of consultations with a host of internal and external sources, including colleagues from external partner organizations.

A forum for country knowledge-sharing and learning can generate a snowball effect

Creating a forum for policymakers and country practitioners to share their respective experiences, lessons learned, and best practices through regular webinars is important in helping countries during a crisis and can spur further learning and the exchange of ideas. Countries need to understand what others are doing as that is far faster and far less costly in times when learning and practicing are simultaneous.

Our experience has shown that not only are the Bank’s clients and external partners enriched by the knowledge shared, but they are also inspired. For example, following a webinar in mid-2020 entitled “Dealing with Concurring Epidemics in the Time of COVID-19: Experiences in Latin America,” the country speakers from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru went on to create a Latin American framework and started sharing their experiences in managing the pandemic.

In the same vein, staff across the Bank’s regions have shared materials including briefs, presentations, webinar recordings, and summaries of the learning events with policymakers in the countries where they work. Such examples include knowledge briefs that are meant to respond to the immediate and longer-term learning in areas such as the private sector, or supply chain, to name a few, as we help countries strengthen their health systems.

Partnerships boost knowledge acquisition and sharing and can help reach diverse audiences

Partnerships are especially important when dealing with a pandemic where countries and development agencies are eager to acquire and share knowledge at speed. By creating joint learning platforms, partner agencies can share critical knowledge with bigger audiences far quicker while providing consistent messaging. To this end, the Bank has tapped into its convening power to promote learning and sharing of knowledge.

Leveraging its membership of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), a global collaboration of governments, scientists, businesses, civil society, philanthropists, and global health organizations (the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CEPI, FIND, Gavi, the Global Fund, Unitaid, Wellcome, UNICEF, and the WHO), we have been able to use its macro-stage and contribute to learning at large scale.

As co-lead of ACT-A’s Health Systems Response Connector (HSRC), the Bank hosted a learning and knowledge-sharing platform, enabling countries to present country-level know-how of health systems strengthening as they respond to COVID-19. The platform attracted participants across multiple agencies and countries across the globe. Topics for knowledge-sharing events ranged from challenges and solutions to protecting the health workforce, addressing supply chain bottlenecks, health financing and budgetary dialogues, frontline services assessments, and the value of community engagement in the pandemic, to the role of the private sector in COVID-19 vaccination.

Countries have shared how urgency yields ingenuity. For instance, Ghana’s mPharma health care technology company facilitated addressing testing capacity constraints faced by the public sector. Tunisia shared its experience of conducting research in a pandemic, as it addressed testing of COVID-19. Kenya’s facility assessment on the provision of services and availability of various commodities allowed it to prioritize areas in need of more investment and financing.

The Bank, in collaboration with WHO, and other ACT-A partners has created a Knowledge Bank depository to host various tools, guidance notes, technical briefs, and case studies produced by all ACT-A partner agencies. The goal is simple: make the latest COVID-19 health systems–related knowledge accessible in one place for ease of utilization by countries. Moving forward, this platform is meant to harness cross-country learning, increase country engagement, and update best practices as we learn them.   

As countries work to turn the corner in their COVID-19 responses, the optimal use of knowledge will be critical. Countries will need to effectively manage knowledge assets to inform strategic decisions to both mitigate the health and socioeconomic effects of the pandemic and strengthen preparedness for future emergencies.


Martin Lutalo

Senior Knowledge Management Specialist

Feng Zhao

Practice Manager

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