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Mak Unveils C-19: COVID-19 Mobile Contact Tracing App

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By Joseph Odoi

As government strives to reduce community spread of the novel coronavirus, Makerere University researchers have developed a mobile application that digitizes the investigation, case, and contact tracing for COVID-19 in communities.

With Funding from Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF) and Partnership from Child and Family Foundation Uganda and Ministry of Health, the application is designed to investigate case and contact tracing for COVID-19, timely reporting and decision making to improve the efficiency of COVID-19 response and capture community feedback.

While launching  the application under project titled ‘’C-19’’, Dr. Harriet Babikako  the Project lead  said her team was inspired by the need to  address the existing challenges of trekking long distances for hours to ascertain information in regards to suspected or even confirmed cases of COVID-19, delayed communication and  responses, loss of contact lists and transcription errors .

“Currently, Community surveillance teams have to trek distances for hours to go and find information from suspected or even confirmed cases. Therefore, challenges such as incomplete identification of contacts, delays in communication, and response, loss of contact lists, inadequate data collection, and transcription errors exist, making the system slow, and inefficient. Thus information exchange between involved parties is too slow and expensive because, by the time a response is generated, the disease is spreading. This means the spreading of COVID-19 is not solved efficiently” she explained in a zoom session on Tuesday 30th March 2021.

Dr. Harriet Babikako-the Project lead delivers her remarks at the Application launch.

As part of the features, the application has various COVID-19 self-assessment components on its Epi -COVID Tracer Dashboard. This enables the app user to undergo self-screening or screen others using different prompts.

The application also boasts of support services that include COVID-19 Laboratories and hospitals all authorized by Ministry of Health. One can consult Private Doctors and Counsellors on the App through WhatsApp or other call options.

In terms of reservation, the application system enables one to book for a COVID-19 test from the nearest authorized laboratories .This is done by filling a lab booking form which locates the test center near you.    Additionally, it also enables different user’s right from Community, VHTs District Task Force DTF and National Task Force NFT by filling the contact tracing form.

An interface of the C-19 Mobile Contact Tracing App

On the relevance of the app to School going students, Haron Gichuhi a health informant and Co-Investigator of the project; said this mobile application empowers health workers within schools to appropriately screen students and allows them to manage/refer probable cases of COVID-19.

“Now that schools are open, School nurses can use the application to carry out tests and refer students to nearest laboratories with in their proximity.

“The application also gives the students their COVID-19 status and advises them on preventive methods like self-isolation” noted Dr. Gichuhi of the ambitious innovation which took 6 months to create

On cost effectiveness, the researchers say the app addresses the concept of high costs to government. This is because the application is available to communities like market vendors, schools, individuals.

On uniqueness of the mobile innovation, the researchers cited decision making, quick scanning of information, case management and peer checking for other colleagues as special qualities ingrained in the application.

With this app, one can  book a COVID-19 test with MOH authorized Laboratories and hospitals on the application and also  consult a private doctor or a private counsellor. This can be done within any citizen’s comfort with just a click on their phone.

Mr. Ezekiel Musasizi from Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Makerere University, (Co-investigator) says the team is in the process of translating the app to different languages to cater for all classes of society

In her final remarks, Dr. Harriet Babikako thanked Ministry of Health, Partnership from Child and Family Foundation Uganda and the Government of Uganda efforts towards supporting research and innovation through Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF). The launch attracted virtual participants from academia, non-government organizations, students, development partners, the media and Ministry of Health.

MORE ABOUT PROJECT TEAM

The C-19 Project was implemented by researchers and innovators from Makerere University with funding from Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF).

The Project /innovation team includes; Dr. Harriet Babikako from Makerere University School of Public Health (Principal Investigator), Dr. Vincent Michael Kiberu (Co-Pi) and Dr. Ezekiel Mupere (Co-Pi) from Department of Pediatrics and Child Health and Mr. Haron Gichuhi (Co-PI and Health Informant).

Health

Understanding & Preventing Drowning in Uganda

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Cover page of the "Understanding and Preventing Drowning in Uganda" Report 2020 by the Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH).

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death; accounting for 7% of all injuries. Over 90% of the estimated 322,000 annual global drowning deaths occur in low-and middle-income countries. Although the burden of drowning is believed to be highest in the WHO-African region, data
collection and surveillance for drowning in African countries is limited. Drowning prevention strategies require adequate data on the burden and circumstances of drowning to help ensure data-driven prevention efforts. The World Health Organization recommends that all countries take steps to improve drowning data so that prevention strategies can be context-specific.

This report presents findings of a two-phased study that was conducted in 60 districts of Uganda for a period of 2.5 years (from January 1st, 2016 to June 30th, 2018). In the first phase, records concerning 1,435 drowning cases were found in the 60 study districts. Other than stating that the individual had drowned, there was very little information that could potentially guide prevention efforts.

The second phase was limited to only 14 of the initial 60 districts. In the 14 districts, a total of 2,066 drowning cases were identified by community health workers and confirmed through individual interviews with witnesses/family members/friends and survivors of drowning. Most (1,332; 64%) of these were deaths. Using the community approach, as opposed to official records, revealed more than three times the number of drowning deaths in the same 14 districts. Almost half of all people who drowned were engaged in an occupational activity at the time of the incident.

These results show that drowning is a major cause of premature death in Uganda, especially among young adults whose livelihoods depend on water activities. However, most drownings are preventable through policies and regulations that reduce exposure to drowning risk, and institution of interventions to ensure safety around water. Drowning is a multisectoral issue, and all stakeholders (local and national government, water transport, water sport, education, fishing, health, and law enforcement) should coordinate to develop a national water safety strategy and action plan. The strategy could address matters of leadership coordination, funding, advocacy, awareness raising, prioritization, target setting, and monitoring and evaluation.

Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze,
Professor & Dean, School of Public Health, Makerere University

Please Downloads for the full report.

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Health

Call for Applications: Leadership and Management in Global Health

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The Gardens at the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Mulago Campus, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

Makerere University Lung Institute through its NIH funded Non-Communicable Diseases Research training program #D43TW011401 aims to develop capacity for researchers to lead and manage NCD research programs in Uganda. As part of the program the Institute will sponsor participants with interest in NCD research to undertake a Leadership and Management in Global Health course with the University of Washington.  This course provides practical leadership and management skills that are required for working in complex local, regional, national, and global health environments.

How to Apply:

  1. Create an eDGH account: go to https://edgh.washington.edu, select ‘Log in’ on the top right, and then ‘Create a new account’. This will allow you to apply to the course and the account will keep track of your application and data
  2. Once you have created your account, go to  https://edgh.washington.edu/courses/participant-application
  3. Select the “Site-Based Participant” option when applying and select your site as “Uganda Kampala Makerere University Lung Institute” from the list on the application:
    1. Note: You may be asked if you understand that you may be responsible to contribute to site fees – select yes, but please note that there will be no cost to you for taking this course with our group.
    2. You will receive a confirmation email once you have submitted your application.

Application Deadline: 19th August, 2021.

Contact Information:

Dr. Charles Batte
Program Manager,
Makerere University Non-Communicable Diseases Training Program (MakNCD)
Email: dr.cbatte[at]gmail.com | makncd.chs[at]mak.ac.ug
Tel: +256700800618

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MakSPH Position: Program Officer – Uganda DDP for WH

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Job Advert: Program Officer Position - Uganda Data Driven Policy Initiative for Women’s Health, MakSPH.

Makerere University School of Public Health (Department of Community Health and Behavioural Sciences) in collaboration with Vital Strategies is looking for a Program Officer for an exciting new program to reduce maternal mortality in Uganda.

Vital Strategies also promotes public health programs that include road safety, mental health, and activities to strengthen public health data systems and the use of public health data to guide policy and decision-making in Uganda.

About the Program

Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) with funding from Vital Strategies will implement a program to promote women’s health by address leading causes of morbidity and mortality. This program under the name Data-Driven Policy Initiative to Improve Women’s Health (DDP for WH) aims to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality resulting from unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and complications of pregnancy and childbirth in Uganda. Other countries where this project is being implemented are Bangladesh and Rwanda.

The program officer will work closely with ministry of health to strengthen capacity to collect, analyze and apply data to develop evidence-based policies. This Initiative applies a data-to-policy model to support improved access to, and surveillance of, family planning, contraceptives, abortion care, and other sexual and reproductive health services. The program complements existing efforts in Uganda and leverages Vital Strategies’ expertise in health data, epidemiology, surveillance, health policy and public health law, and strategic communication and advocacy.

The program’s theory of change is based on the assumption that clear and compelling data and evidence, along with effective advocacy, is fundamental to create meaningful and impactful policy and program improvements. Anchoring the first-year activities in building capacity and understanding in the data and its gaps will serve as the basis for policy analysis and development. Also through support and partnership with others currently working in this space, will complement ongoing advocacy and communications, and implementation efforts in the initial year and beyond.

The Position

This is a two-year, grant funded position but may extend for additional years. The Program Officer will be responsible for supporting Uganda-specific program results. S/he will serve as a subject matter expert in epidemiology/health data/Health Management Information Systems and will guide and provide technical support to Ministry of Health (MoH) of Uganda counterparts. The program officer will report to the Principal Investigator at the MakSPH. Progress will be discussed with Program Director based at Vital Strategies, the MoH and the Kampala based Investigators. The primary responsibilities of this position will be to ensure that the implementation of Initiative-activities in Uganda are country-owned and country-driven, technically sound and sustainable. They should also be in line with program goals and objectives, best practice standards, approved work plans, and budgets. S/he will ensure that Initiative activities are continuously monitored, and that implementation obstacles are identified and reported in a timely manner.

This position requires expertise and experience in the technical dimensions of this work, i.e., reproductive and sexual health, familiarity with sources and analytic approaches for data related to reproductive health, safe abortion and post-abortion care, and the use of data for policymaking and program management. The officer will be embedded in the Ministry of Health and MakSPH with dual accountability to MakSPH and Vital Strategies.

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Term of Service

Initial consultant contract will be 12 months and may be renewed, subject to satisfactory performance. A three-month probationary period will apply.

How to Apply

Please submit your application, a CV including salary expectations to the Dean, MakSPH via the link below.

Application link: https://forms.gle/w5GPpqTCVgftQJvFA

The deadline for applications is August 6th 2021. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

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