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Wholly owned by the University of Auckland, UniServices is a not-for-profit, stand-alone company that provides support to researchers by helping them secure funding and connections that can amplify and grow their endeavours. Seeking out and bringing together partners in academic institutions, industry and government to build new knowledge and solutions through research, UniServices champions research and ideas from the University of Auckland’s great minds, which have the power to change the world.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) is a New Zealand-wide organisation that provides information and training about immunisation and vaccine-preventable diseases to healthcare professionals, government bodies and individuals. It coordinates the nation’s immunisation programmes, policy advice and research and is part of the UniServices network.

Whāraurau delivers workforce development initiatives for the Infant, Child & Adolescent Mental Health and/or Alcohol and Other Drugs sector. It is also part of UniServices.

The Challenge

The recent pandemic highlighted the importance of widespread vaccination in controlling the spread of disease. However, many migrants and refugees in ANZ are likely to be under-immunised, according to the Australian and New Zealand National Immunisation Program schedules. Migrants and refugees often face a number of barriers to accessing health care, including catch-up immunisations, such as language difficulties, direct/indirect costs, cultural differences, legal barriers and a health workforce with generally low awareness of issues specific to migrants and refugees.

In ANZ, primary health care professionals, including general practitioners and nurses, provide many routine and catch-up immunisations for migrants and refugees. However, immunisation service delivery for this population is complex, and research shows that there is a gap between the kinds of services provided to this group in the countries to which they migrate and the cultural context of the healthcare systems, practitioners and health behaviours in their respective countries of origin. Unmet training needs for immunisation providers can be another obstacle that hampers immunisation service delivery for migrants and refugees.

Added to this, doctors and nurses are generally time-poor and cannot easily commit to undertaking additional learning. Hence, the team of researchers explored a different way to try and reach as many health care professionals as possible so that they can learn in a time and manner that works for them.

“The research project looks to provide e-learning opportunities for doctors and nurses, and the online learning element is provided because doctors are time-poor. It’s also a different way to try and get them to learn in a time and manner that works for them,” said Dr Preeti Tiwari, e-learning designer at Whāraurau and researcher at Uniservices.

The Solution

Targeted professional development opportunities for immunisation providers are essential to help enhance their awareness, confidence and capabilities and to improve immunisation service delivery for migrants and refugees.

Whāraurau staff were part of the ANZ team that developed the educational program to support learning for immunisation providers and equip them with the requisite knowledge and confidence to improve immunisation service delivery for refugees and migrants. The multi-module online educational program drew on evidence-based web design principles and adult learning theories. Its content aimed to complement general immunisation training and align with the continuing professional development standards of ANZ general practice and nursing colleges. Input from experts and feedback from selected providers in ANZ added to the robustness of the programme.

According to Tiwari, “The research project looks to provide e-learning opportunities for doctors and nurses, and the online learning element is provided because doctors are time-poor.” She adds, “It’s also a different way to try and get them to learn in a time and manner that works for them.”

“The ability for doctors and nurses to access online learning is much higher than face-to-face, so we are approaching this whole learning cycle through online learning to help them improve their capacity and their ability to provide culturally appropriate immunisation services to populations,” says Tiwari.

In New Zealand, the course will be hosted through IMAC, which uses D2L Brightspace.

Tiwari says there are a number of advantages to using Brightspace. As an e-learning designer, she was able to structure content in a way that is easy to understand and provides flexibility. This is achieved through having asynchronous learning opportunities where learners can start anywhere in the course based on their learning journey or current knowledge.

As researchers on the project, Tiwari and her team will be able to track the progress of learners in the course and capture data more succinctly through the Brightspace LMS.

The Results

Attracting New Learners

The course aims to fill a known gap in immunisation services in ANZ and complement general immunisation training. It aligns with the continuing professional development requirements of ANZ general practice and nursing colleges.

This program has the potential to improve the understanding and capacity of immunisation providers, better address immunisation needs, improve vaccination experiences and increase the overall vaccine uptake amongst migrants and refugees.

The research team will pilot the online research project across Australia and New Zealand in the first quarter of 2024, with the intention of going live in the second quarter. Following its implementation, future research will examine its impact on improving immunisation practices for migrants and refugees.