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MUEHSA 13th Annual Scientific Conference a Major Success

  • In Health
  • 11 Apr 2016 - 12:35pm
  • By Mark Wamai
  • 13,808
Participants attend the 13th MUEHSA Annual Scientific Conference, 7th - 8th April 2016, Esella Country Hotel, Najjera, Wakiso Uganda

Makerere University Environmental Health Students’ Association (MUEHSA) is a student-led association started in 2002 by students on the Bachelors of Environmental Health Science programme at Makerere University School of Public Health. With the aim of promoting environmental health in Uganda, the association holds a variety of activities including celebrating annual international health days, community outreach programmes and lobbying for improved environmental health.

Year after year, since 2003, the association has been organizing annual scientific conferences hosting participants from different countries and fields related to health. The scientific conferences provide a platform for discussion and presentation of environmental and public health work in Uganda and elsewhere in the world; giving an opportunity for comparison of systems. It is also an opportunity for presentation of innovations and research papers from students, organizational activities and findings in public health. The conferences increase knowledge of students in public health practice and enrich and rejuvenate practitioners’ knowledge-base.

This year, the MUEHSA 13th annual scientific conference was held 7th - 8th April at Esella Country Hotel, Najjera near Kampala, under the theme “Intersectoral collaboration to enhance the role of Environmental Health towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.” The conference aimed at providing a clear overview and understanding of the importance of collaborative action across different fields to achieving Sustainable Development Goals, especially in terms of health (defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.) and stressing the role of environmental health.

Dr. Sheba Gitta delivers her Keynote Address on day one of the 13th MUEHSA ASCIn a keynote address, Dr. Sheba Gita noted that unlike the 8 Millennium development goals that were closed in 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals emphasize 3 new aspects, i.e. universality (apply to every nation, sector, business, and organization,) integration (goals are interconnected. We need to achieve all goals, not just one,) and transformation to achieve (we require big changes to achieve the SDGs.) She therefore emphasized that the only way to achieve SDGs is through collaborative actions involving more than one agency. Dr. Gita also illustrated effective collaborative action with a case study on plague outbreak in Arua, 2008, in which an investigation team was set up, made of officials from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, an entomologist, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention officials, local government health practitioners, AFENET, Makerere University School of Public Health team, Veterinary doctors, engineers and anthropologists. They carried out activities including community sensitization on killing rats and keeping domestic animals out of their houses, radio talk shows on plague causes and control methods.

The Guest of Honour, Dr. Okello Ayen (Director of Public Health, Kampala Capital City Authority), hinted on the interface of urbanization and health in his address. He also mentioned that health needs to be seen as an environmental aspect and not simply a hospital issue. He gave an example of the very big solid waste management problem in Kampala affecting air quality. He expressed that Kampala is a lakeside city translating into increasing water contamination and eutrophication due to industrialization and poor waste disposal. Things such as these result in the population having the second largest lake in the world but with water that cannot be used, incurring high water treatment costs. He challenged the participants to do something about the construction of pit latrines in Kampala a largely wetland area and to pay attention to the growing non-communicable diseases burden in the country. In conclusion, he said “at the end of this conference, every person should be able to stand out and teach the public about health according to what we have learned. Publish out something, like a summary! And approach KCCA for help and advice.”

Professor John David Kabasa, the keynote speaker of day 2, introduced the importance of the One Health concept. He said that one health is about policies and systems that will shape the next generation of youth 2035 - 2050. He mentioned that from the time of the industrial revolution and civilization set in, medicine has increasingly been available, there is a decrease in infectious disease mortality, life expectancy increase, population increase and exportation of western civilization among others.

Participants in the 13th MUEHSA ASC contribute to the discussion“Today, there is shrinking earth paradigm indicated by overpopulation, global warming and climate change, resource and livelihood hunger and obscure future. As a result of high population, there is high demand for quality products and services, improvement in technology, while globalization and glocalization are running together. However, there are challenges among the youth that need to be addressed in international education and language i.e, integration, ideology, culture, politics, and religion”, Professor. Kabasa said.

He added that the increased interface with the animal world has led to outbreaks of zoonotic diseases like Ebola and Marburg. While in the food industry, urbanization and income growth in Africa are driving a diet transformation, posing higher risks of biothreats. Africa is also the most severely affected region in global water scarcity.

Professor Kabasa said in order to address the challenges, knowledge, ability (skills), attitude, networks, and integrity will be crucial for competition.
The two-day scientific event hosted over 250 participants, including students and staff from 10 institutions of higher learning in Uganda, Cardiff Metropolitan, and Nottingham Trent University (both of the United Kingdom), representatives from  district health departments, civil society organisations, among others. Up to 25 presentations  were made by local and international participants, focusing on;
1.    Partnerships for health
2.    One Health concept
3.    Air pollution, climate, and health
4.    Affordable and clean energy
5.    Water, sanitation, and hygiene
6.    Food safety and food security
7.    Reproductive health
8.    Occupational health
9.    Public health legislation
10.    Opportunities for students
MUEHSA Patron Mrs. Ruth Neebye Mubeezi The MUEHSA patron, Ms. Ruth Neebye Mubeezi, commended the always growing enthusiasm of the students and appreciated the organizing committee. She noted that such conferences are important for health in the nation and that focusing on intersectoral collaboration this year is more than just a great idea for wider coverage but is also a perfect timing for the health systems which require more than independent silos but togetherness in action for health.

The outgoing MUEHSA president, Ms. Anyonga Prisca cherished the work of fellow students and gave open appreciations to all supporting partners especially the school administration, and gave tokens of appreciation, awards to different presenters and participants at the conference.

Article by OHCEA Communication Team


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