Women’s Health and COVID-19

By Eliana Ifill

Healthcare has a gender bias problem. Women are less likely than men to get the right kind of treatment, to have their illnesses correctly diagnosed, and to be included in important clinical research.

Men and women are biologically different and have unique healthcare needs, including in obvious areas like reproductive care or breast cancer screening, and also extending beyond.

→ Free Presentation: Women’s Health and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Healthcare should be all about keeping people alive and healthy, right? It needs to conform to people no matter what their gender is and if they’re in the LGBTQ+ community. (For the record, men get ignored in areas of healthcare too, especially with mental health.)

If it doesn’t, healthcare leaves wide gaps that lead to worse health outcomes for women. Those gaps grow even wider among minority women and those in underserved and rural communities.

Some troubling facts:

  • On average, black women in the US are 2 to 6 times more likely to die during childbirth than white women,
  • 17% of women of color in the US have no health insurance, compared to white women’s 8%, according to this study,
  • And an estimated 44% of transgender women suffer from clinical depression, compared to 5.5% in the overall population of women.

Women’s Health and COVID-19

Now, with a global pandemic, reproductive health has receded even further into the background.

“As state governors responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, they affected reproductive care in a myriad of ways. Governors issued orders to protect access to health care, preserve supplies of protective equipment, and reduce exposure to and transmission of the coronavirus. In some states, these orders protected reproductive health care, while in others, governors used the pandemic as an excuse to restrict this care,” according to the Guttmacher Institute.

10 Ways Your Agency Can Help Women

You and your team have the unique opportunity to educate, inform, and provide support to the women in the communities they serve, effectively knocking down and helping the population access the preventive and health care services that can often be life-saving.

Start here:

Top 10 Women’s Health Issues

  • Breast Cancer
  • Gynecological Cancer
  • Reproductive Health
  • Maternal Health
  • Heart Disease
  • Mental Health
  • STDs, STIs, and HIV
  • Violence Against Women
  • Transgender
  • Age

For more information, check out the Improving Women’s Health resource guide for an understanding of why and how to close the health gaps.

5 Ways to Improve Communication in Training

Best practices for communicating better with learners and staff in online courses.

Imagine being a patient and meeting with a healthcare provider for the first time. Your consultation might be rushed, you’re unfamiliar and by the environment, and the language new and confusing.

If that provider doesn’t have the best communication skills, it can add up to an unrewarding experience.

Recommended Reading: How To Make Your Online Training Less Intimidating

That confusion is what many people feel when they take an online course. Online learners, just like patients in a doctor’s office, need good communication for a positive experience.

If you’re an administrator or facilitator for an online training program, think about how to communicate with your readers in a way that connects, informs, and extends the learning experience.

Communicating with online learners—through such channels as announcements, emails, texts or forums—is especially important because you can’t use the power of nonverbal communication. Normally, you can use the tone of your voice or facial expressions to reinforce your meaning. But when the only way you have to connect is with words, you’ll have to give extra thought to how to connect.

Sometimes, the people in charge of enrolling and disenrolling people into a course, for example HR representatives or program managers, might not think communication is part of the job. They’re wrong!

Clear communication should be part of your overall training strategy, even if you didn’t create the curriculum yourself. Any exchange you have with your learners should support what they’re learning and make it easier for them to understand content.

Here are five ways you can improve your communication skills to connect better in online courses.

5 Ways To Communicate Better in Online Courses

1. Use Announcements Effectively

The Announcements feature of an online learning management system (LMS) is a central part of any online course. Announcements are the primary way you can establish your presence.

They provide the clear communication students need when they go into a classroom. They let you connect with participants, lead the group, and set the tone for what they’re about to learn.

Announcements lets you post messages to learners and staff who are enrolled in your course. Depending on how you use them, you can also set announcements to be delivered directly to learners through email or RSS.

An announcement is often the first thing someone sees when they log into a classroom. Because they’re the first thing that anyone sees, announcements should be useful.

Here’s a simple example of a reminder to complete course evaluations:

You can also use announcements to build rapport and increase course engagement. This example shows the instructor’s personality and also creates a connection with each learner and the group.

2. Avoid Acronyms and Jargon

Any training curriculum can be full of specific jargon and acronyms—especially healthcare. The glossary is the place for those—not in general communication. Assume your students are there to learn, so make sure you spell out phrases and skip buzzwords.

3. Communicate Often—but Not Too Much

While some course managers neglect communication tools, others over-communicate. Checking in too often or leaving too much text can have the counterintuitive effect of making learners check out. They’ll learn to ignore overly frequent messages or glaze over when looking at a wall of text.

Consider if the medium for the message. Is the Announcements feature the best place for it? Should you be writing an email to an individual or a team? Should you post something in the forum to increase peer learning and interaction?

4. Use Meaningful Imagery

Written communication is essential, but an image can get your idea across in an instant. It’s human nature to notice a graphic, especially among a string of text (we’re betting you saw the picture above).

Knowing that and using imagery strategically can help you increase communication and understanding in an online course.

Before you start adding images in your announcements or emails, ask yourself if they’re really adding to the communication. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before you add something to your course:

  1. Does the image help communicate something important in the curriculum or content?
  2. Are there too many images?
  3. Does the image make sense in the context?

5. Plan Your Communication

It’s a good idea to plan out your communication in a course just as carefully as an editor plans articles in a newspaper. It will help you stay on schedule, think clearly about what you’re communicating, and do the work up front.

For example, you could always post a wrap-up message on Thursday afternoons. You might always send an email with a link to the gradebook on Monday mornings.

If your LMS has a date release tool, such as Talance’s Schedule Course Mail, you can write all your announcements or emails up front, set the dates when they’re to be delivered, and then let them go automatically in time with the training session.

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17 Questions to Ask in a Training Needs Assessment

Performing a training needs assessment of your public health workforce is an important first step in creating an online training initiative. It’s essential for creating the kinds of professional development opportunities that will improve the knowledge, competence, and effectiveness of your staff.

Before you do anything to train your staff, find out what your stakeholders need from a program and what your employees need to learn. This will help you create a program that has a greater chance of success.

Training Needs Assessment Tips

Too many programs either skip the step of performing a needs assessment (read more on the important step of performing a needs analysis), or they make mistakes when doing one. Such messiness could set the tone for your entire program. It will leave you with participants who spend more time looking at their phones than engaging with learning content. Even worse than unsatisfied students is wasted funds.

One common mistake is looking too narrowly at your organization when documenting needs. For example, some administrators know they need to address a knowledge gap because of compliance requirements or industry guidelines. But they forget to consider if they have enough qualified trainers to handle a new online program. They assume that uploading a PDF to the website will be enough to train all their staff. Looking at only one piece of the puzzle will solve exactly one piece.

When employers start planning for an online training program, they should minimally start by looking at what their students need, what their organization needs, and what kind of technology needs. Likely, your organization will have more factors you’ll need to assess.

Your Capacity for Needs Assessments

Training a public health workforce is complex. Needs and wants of the entire agency is confusing. But you might already know how to do this.

Many programs have internal capacity for needs assessments that they forget they already know. Many public health programs, for example, are required to perform community needs assessments. If this is you, you’re already used to finding out what kinds of strategies can make positive health improvement in a community.

You can think about the skills you already have and instead of focusing them on external community members, turn them around to your own staff.

To provide some value to your initiative, we’re suggesting some questions you can ask to get the most from your new training program.

Questions to Ask in a Training Needs Assessment

Find out what your employees need to learn new skills.

Assess what your learners need to know. You might have internal requirements, such as yearly sexual harassment training, or a need for continuing education credits to keep certifications up to date. Or you may have results-based needs, such as finding a way for employees to serve more clients in a shorter amount of time. Looking at gaps in learning will help you identify how to address them.

You can ask your students what they want to learn, but proceed down this road with caution. Sometimes, they don’t know what they need and lack the terminology to tell you, or have very little experience with (or love of) online learning.

Your job is to discover their core needs quickly and succinctly. Here are a few questions to begin with:

  1. On a scale of one to 10, how do you feel about your skill level related to your job?
  2. Why did you give yourself that score?
  3. Do you feel that you can handle your current scope of work?

Determine gaps in your infrastructure.

Assume you’ve identified what your audience needs to learn, and then back up and see what weaknesses you see in your infrastructure to make that happen. For example, you might need to hire a new fleet of trainers with skills in online teaching strategies. Or, your grant has reporting requirements, and you’ll need evaluation tools to address them. You can group stakeholders with your infrastructure, because they will also have requirements you’ll need to address, such as the ability to become self-supporting with your new courses.

Try questions like these:

  1. What are the skills necessary for this program to succeed?
  2. How many staff members have the skills necessary for this program to succeed?
  3. What hiring needs does our program have now?
  4. What hiring needs will out program need in the next month/quarter/year?
  5. Is there a process for identifying future training and professional development of the workforce?
  6. What could prevent the project team from learning these skills?
  7. What barriers could prevent this program from succeeding, past, present, and future?

Consider access requirements for training.

Knowing what your needs are for learning and for your infrastructure will help greatly when you analyze what kind of delivery mechanism will work best for your agency. Then you can begin to decide if you need self-paced learning, will offer courses with instruction, are looking to build a blended-learning program, what kind of data you need, etc. When you have a list of digital tools and features you need, you can measure them against providers and vendors that can help address those.

Here are some questions to help with access requirements:

  1. Does training need to be done in person?
  2. Can training be done remotely?
  3. How soon does training need to be completed?
  4. What internal training resources already exist?
  5. What content formats work best with employees?
  6. What about learner backgrounds needs to be taken into account, for example language requirements?
  7. Can employees move through the training at their own pace?

Remember that a needs assessment is just the beginning. Look at it as the launching point for a deep investigation into what it will take for your program to succeed. Jumping into something for the sake of it might seem like the fast solution, but you’ll be glad you took the time to look deeply into your requirements before you begin building.

This post was updated December 12, 2020. It originally appeared May 30. 2014