VANUATU, 17 April 2012 - The World Health Organization and the Vanuatu Ministry of Health recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formalize the development of the Pacific Open Learning Health Net (POLHN) in the country.

POLHN, which WHO and several ministries of health launched in 2004, provides access to hundreds of free online training and continuing education modules covering a wide range of clinical and public health topics such as emergency obstetrics and newborn care. The online courses, which can be completed in a few hours, aim to improve health and scientific knowledge as well as skills and competencies of health professionals, particularly doctors, nurses and mid-level practitioners.

There are now more than 30 POLHN centres in 12 Pacific island countries - Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Each is equipped with computers, Internet, audio conferencing and training resources, and reference materials.

In Vanuatu, the first POLHN centre was opened in Port Vila in 2007 and, a second centre was opened in Luganville in October 2011. The two centres, located in the heart of the two national hospitals, are widely used by health professionals.

Already in 2012, health professionals in Luganville have completed more than 190 courses, demonstrating their high commitment to improve their professional skills. The courses are offered from a number of providers, including the United States Agency for International Development, the Global Health e-Learning Center and the Fiji National University College of Medicine and Health Science.

A new computer centre opened in Norsup on 10 April 2012 to provide basic computer training to enable more health professionals to participate in the online courses. Other centres are being considered for the future.

WHO and the Ministry of Health signed the memorandum on 27 March 2012.