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KI, Mak Enter New Phase of Collaboration with Centre for Sustainable Health

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By Davidson Ndyabahika. Additional Reporting by Michelle Azorbo

Representatives from Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University on Friday (January 29) signed an agreement, furthering an alliance between the two research-led universities.

The collaboration agreement was establishing the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health – CESH. This Centre seeks to promote partnerships, develop capacity, resources and tools to drive the agenda for sustainable health.

Professor Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice Chancellor Makerere University, and Prof. Ole Petter Ottersen, President Karolinska Institutet, signed the agreement in a virtual ceremony.

The agreement is a step in the deepening of the collaboration between the institutions and a major leap towards driving the agenda for sustainable health.

“Fueled by our experiences in COVID-19, we see an urgent need to build universal preparedness for health and I am convinced that the new Centre will contribute significantly to this. My vision is that the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health will help transform how research and policies are formulated and conducted in the area of sustainable health”, explained KI’s President Ole Petter Ottersen.

Professor Nawangwe said that the signing ceremony marks a milestone of deepening the successful cooperation between Makerere University and Karolinska Institutet

“This is an important next step in the long-standing collaboration between Makerere University and Karolinska Institutet. Deepening our partnership will be a significant contribution to increase action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda”, said Professor Nawangwe.

In a dialogue preceding the signing session, the two heads of KI and Mak shared warm experiences and visions for the partnership. They also congratulated each other on the roles the institutions are doing to support efforts to curb the global pandemic.

Professor Nawangwe highlighted the pivotal role Makerere University as a key research institution in Uganda is doing to support national and global efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

He says while the pandemic has brought problems, it has shown some realities of what the world is.

“The effects of the pandemic on the African continent have been a blessing in disguise. It has been what I could call ‘a rude awakening of Africa’ because Africa was for the first time completely isolated in many ways. That forced us to begin thinking what do we do? We must find solutions to our problems including health problems. And that is why you see a lot of efforts by our researchers to find solutions for COVID-19,” Professor Nawangwe.

KI’s President Ole Petter Ottersen said many projects that have been set up in the name of global health have largely been short term and sort of ‘hit and run projects’.

He contends that there is a need to put into context collaboration the elements of long-term perspective and with ambitions to end up in policy changes and implementation of new knowledge in order to have a permanent change for the better when it comes to health policies.

According to Ottersen, this global pandemic has put the world at crossroads that requires more attention to be paid to the global challenges whose targets were set for 2030. He also highlighted the need to use this pandemic as an opportunity to bolster efforts to the goals of agenda 2030.

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Computing & IS

MakSPH METS Program HISTAC Positions: Software Developers

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MakSPH-METS Program staff interacting with Mildmay's Elizabeth during the DREAMS Data Audit at Kalule in Nyimbwa Subcounty, Luwero District. Photo credit: MakSPH-METS

The Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH)-Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Support (METS) Program is a five-year (2020-2025) CDC funded Cooperative Agreement. The overall purpose of the program is to establish coordinated and effective national and district systems for management of strategic information for a robust HIV Program.

MakSPH-METS is also working as a Sub-Awardee to the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) on a multi country program entitled HQ Support of Improved Interoperable HIS towards HIV/AIDS and TB Control through Improved HIS Policy, Governance, Workforce Capacity and systems under PEPFAR (HISTAC). The program will provide technical assistance in areas of data base management, software development, case-based surveillance, HIS design and implementation.

POSITION SUMMARIES

MakSPH METS is therefore seeking to hire qualified individuals for the following position under
the HISTAC project:

Software Developer (3)

The Software Developer shall be responsible for designing, developing, implementing, maintaining, auditing and improving new and existing health information systems and project software. He/she shall be responsible to customize national health information systems and integrate biometric and other technology for patients tracking, monitoring and referral across service sites.

Qualifications and Experience

A bachelor’s degree in computer science and software engineering and Information systems. A minimum of five years’ experience in software development or working with health information systems.

Soft copies of the applications should be submitted as one PDF file to the following email address mets[at]musph.ac.ug by 5:00 pm on March 3, 2021.

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Health

Address Drivers of Non-compliance to COVID-19 Guidelines, Researchers Urge Government

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L-R: Dr. Misaki Wayengera-MoH-National COVID Taskforce, Dr. Gloria Seruwagi-REFLECT Study PI and Mr. Thomas Mugweri-Kyegegwa District COVID Taskforce engage the community on Britop Radio 94.1 FM in December 2020.

Makerere University researchers and local leaders have asked government and other key stakeholders in refugee management to address community drivers of non-compliance to COVID-19 guidelines as increased cases continue to be registered across the country.

This call was made at the dissemination event of a study conducted by Makerere University titled Refugee Lived Experiences, Compliance and Thinking (REFLECT) in COVID-19. The REFLECT dissemination was undertaken at multiple sites in Kisenyi (Kampala), Kyaka II Refugee Settlement (Kyegegwa) and Adjumani (West Nile) on 14th December 2020.

The REFLECT study observed that compliance levels around COVID-19 guidelines drastically declined between May-August 2020 and continue going down despite increased infections from community transmission. The stakeholders at this event cautioned that addressing the drivers of non-compliance was necessary in light of the overwhelmed health system, currently ongoing political campaigns and massive social gatherings in the Christmas season and beyond.

Since March 2020 the Uganda government and its partners have conducted a fairly successful awareness campaign on the prevention of COVID-19. However, this knowledge has not translated into sustainable behavioural change and while there was strict observance of COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, compliance has drastically dropped due to a number of reasons. This is why all prevention efforts should now focus on addressing the barriers to non-compliance as the country enters into the second wave and peak period of COVID-19 transmissions.

A study conducted from among 2,092 people in refugee settlements in Uganda has found a serious disconnect between the high knowledge levels and levels of compliance with the recommended COVID-19 preventive measures. A total of 13 settlements were considered for this study including Kisenyi in Kampala, Kyaka II in Kyegegwa district and 11 settlements in Adjumani district, West Nile.

Presenting findings of the study at Kyaka II Refugee Settlement in Kyegegwa, South-Western Uganda, the research team led by Dr Gloria Seruwagi observed that compliance levels had declined over time (between March/April and July/August); unfortunately coinciding with increasing number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Inappropriate use of masks was found prevalent in some of the study sites – including sharing of masks, and only wearing them when the refugees meet the Police. Researchers say these practices constitute a source of risk for infection, rather than being protective.

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Health

COVID-19: Handwashing Adherence Drops by 93% in Kampala Hotspots

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The Minister of Health-Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng washes her hands after the CCP launch on 16th September 2020 using the Touchless Handwashing Kit (TW-20) developed with support from the Government of Uganda through Mak-RIF

By Joseph Odoi

As Uganda continues to fight tirelessly to control the spread of COVID-19, results from a field-based survey in Kampala’s informal settlements have indicated that citizens have abandoned hand hygiene, a key pillar in stopping the spread of a virus.

To beat the virus today and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic, hand hygiene, especially through handwashing with soap have been emphasized as a top priority.

But results of a study titled: Adherence, Lived Experiences and Resilient Transformation among “slum dwellers” (ALERTs) in COVID-19: A study of Ki-Mombasa and Kabalagala-Kataba slums in Kampala present an urgent need to intervene in these communities in order to improve public hygiene practices such as handwashing, if the intended objectives are to be achieved.

Dr. Gloria Seruwagi, a behavioural scientist at Makerere University School of Public Health has observed that some of the set Standard Operating Procedures such as physical distancing, regular sanitizing and use of face masks are less likely to be followed and implemented due to congestion in the settlements.

While presenting an overview of results from the study, Dr. Seruwagi said Ugandans had gone back to their old ways and abandoned best hygiene practices such as handwashing, which is critical in the fight against COVID-19.

“Residents say they can’t afford masks and those who have them say masks make breathing uncomfortable. Sanitizing is a luxury to most people in Bwaise and Kataba communities. While the practice of handwashing was feasible and adhered to at the beginning of March, it has drastically dropped by up to 92.6%.

Dr. Seruwagi, who is also the Study Principal Investigator observed that residents of Ki-Mombasa and Kabalagala-Kataba still have a major infodemic challenge of misinformation surrounding COVID-19, also exacerbated by multiple power centres and enforcers who locals say give confusing messages and seemed to have an uncoordinated response strategy.

“The community told us that everyone seems to be a “little king” in enforcing COVID SOPs and guidelines – from the police to Division leaders, food distributors, VHTs and local village leaders. They were not working in harmony and were giving different, sometimes confusing, messages and instructions. This greatly contributed to confusion and partly resulted in community noncompliance” she said.

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