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Mak Researchers Design National Drowning Prevention Strategy

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By Joseph Odoi

Makerere University researchers under Trauma, Injuries and Disability (TRIAD) Unit) have designed a national drowning prevention strategy. This strategy comes at a time when there is sky rocketing cases of drowning in Africa.

Globally, 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.

In bid to contribute to data driven interventions, Makerere University researchers carried out a study aimed at establishing the availability of drowning data in district-level sources and understanding the reporting of and record keeping on drowning in Uganda.

As part of the study titled: Drowning in Uganda; examining data from administrative sources, researchers engaged various health stakeholders who shared their experiences about drowning and how it can be prevented in communities.

It is upon that background that scholars designed a contextual appropriate strategy for drowning prevention in Uganda under the project titled; Drowning in Uganda; examining data from administrative sources.

 According to the researchers, this drowning strategy is first ever in Uganda. ‘’it will be a national document that will guide all the efforts on drowning prevention in the country; and will avoid non-coordinated activities aimed at prevention of drowning. the strategy will also provide for monitoring and evaluation of all activities and interventions for drowning prevention in the country since there will be a government lead agency tasked with this responsibility’ ’explained Mr. Fredrick Oporia who is part of the study team 

STRATEGIES TO PREVENT DROWNING

In this study published on semantics scholar among other journals, the researchers came up with the following   strategies to counter drowning;

• Setting and enforcing safe boating regulations. • Providing incentives that encourage adherence to boating regulations related to not overloading transport boats and increasing enforcement of boating regulations. • Ensuring boats are fit for purpose and increasing regular inspection of the seaworthiness of boats. • Improving detection and dissemination of information about the weather. • Supporting increased availability and use of lifejackets through subsidy, lifejacket loaner programs, and free lifejacket distribution programs. • Increasing sensitization about safe boating practices, the importance of wearing lifejackets, and limiting alcohol and illicit drug use when boating. Community members, especially children, are vulnerable to drowning in unsafe water sources such as ditches, latrines, wells, and dams. Potential interventions could include: • Modifying access to wells and dams to prevent children or adults from falling in. • Installing boreholes and pumps to enable community members to draw water safely.

Providing safe rescue and resuscitation training to community members and conducting refresher trainings. • Developing and providing low-cost rescue equipment such as boat fenders (rubber and ropes tied to boat on all sides that can assist in the immediate rescue of individuals) and buoyant throwing aids.

To enable ongoing design, implementation, and evaluation of drowning prevention efforts, the researchers note that it is essential to collect data on drowning incidents. Reporting of and record keeping on drowning in Uganda should  also be  improve  according to the researchers  namely; Tessa Clemens, Frederick OporiaErin M Parker, Merissa, A Yellman,  Michael F Ballesteros and  Olive Kobusingye

Other Potential interventions highlighted by the researchers include: • Providing records officers with proper training, equipment, and appropriate storage facilities. • Sensitizing the public on the importance of reporting all drowning cases to authorities.

As part of their study findings, the researchers noted that; A total of 1435 fatal and non-fatal drowning cases were recorded; 1009 (70%) in lakeside districts and 426 (30%) in non-lakeside districts.

 Of 1292 fatal cases, 1041 (81%) were identified in only one source. After deduplication, 1283 (89% of recorded cases; 1160 fatal, 123 non-fatal) unique drowning cases remained. Data completeness varied by source and variable.

On demographics, fatal victims were predominantly male (85%), and the average age was 24 years. In lakeside districts, 81% of fatal cases with a known activity at the time of drowning involved boating.

What were people doing when they drowned?

 Activity at the time of drowning in lakeside districts and non-lakeside districts 

 • Overall, boating was by far the most common activity that people were engaged in at the time of the drowning incident.

 • Other common activities were collecting water/watering cattle and travelling on foot.

 • The most common activities that people engaged in prior to drowning were similar in lakeside and non-lakeside districts. However, in non-lakeside districts, more drowning deaths occurred as a result of collecting water or watering cattle than as a result of boating in those districts.

• Almost half (48%) of all drownings occurred while the person was engaged in an occupational activity.

Of the 1,063 people who died from boating-related drowning or suffered a severe boating related drowning incident but survived, 1,007 (95%) were not wearing a lifejacket at the time of the incident.

Key characteristics of drowning deaths in Kampala

Bathing in water bodies: Study participants indicated that drowning sometimes occurs when people are bathing in lakes, ponds, swamps, and valley dams. People can unexpectedly slip into deep water from shallower areas or rocks.

Crossing flooded rivers and streams:

 Attempting to cross flooded rivers and streams during the rainy season was another cause of drowning identified by study participants.

“Currently, people cross from makeshift bridges such as that of round poles. When the river overflows, it covers them. So, you can’t see them; so, you just start guessing: ‘the pole might be here or there’ and in case your guess is wrong, you automatically drown and you will be gone.” an Interview respondent in   Kabale district explained

Delayed rescue attempts: Study participants identified the importance of timely rescue and resuscitation to prevent death from drowning. However, they also indicated that community members lack knowledge on how to rescue someone who is drowning.

Alcohol use: Several participants identified alcohol use as a key risk factor for drowning. Participants stated that alcohol use is common, especially in fishing communities. “We have a problem with alcoholism. Many of our colleagues go to the waters when their minds are a bit twisted by the alcohol and on some occasions, this has caused accidents and some of them have drowned just like that.” – Interview respondent, Nakasongola district.

Photo of a child carrying water by the lakeside alone and a quote from a study participant

When asked on strategies of preventing drowning, participants suggested the following strategies for preventing drowning:

• Provide affordable and high-quality lifejackets to all water transport users and fishing communities. • Increase sensitization of fishermen and all water transport users on the importance of using lifejackets and avoiding alcohol while boating. • Provide subsidies for large and motorized boats that can be used for safe water travel and fishing to replace small and low-quality boats that are currently in use.

Inspect boats regularly to ensure they are in good travelling condition. • Recruit and deploy more marine police units on all major water bodies to enhance security and quick response to drowning incidents. • Install boat fenders (rubber and ropes tied to boat on all sides) to assist with the immediate rescue of individuals who are involved in a drowning incident. • Provide frequent and safe ferry services to enable water travellers access to safe transportation across rivers and lakes. • Avoid fishing during the moonlight periods to minimize hippopotamus attacks which are more frequent at that time.

 “I think these fishermen really need lifejackets for their work and also need to be sensitized on how to manage the engine of the boats that they use for their work. In most cases, these men just learn how to use these boats without having been trained first.” – Interview respondent, Rakai district. Swimming and basic rescue skills said

Moving forward, the researchers recommend that since; 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.

MORE ABOUT THE STUDY

The study 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.

In the second phase, a total of 2,066 drowning cases were identified in 14 districts by community health workers and confirmed through individual interviews with witnesses/family members/friends and survivors of drowning. This work was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies through the CDC Foundation

Health

METS Newsletter March 2024

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A team documenting the background and other governance structure requirements in the EMR Implementation Guidelines during the stakeholder workshop held from 26th February to 1st March 2024. Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), METS Program, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Support (METS) Program is a 5-year CDC-supported collaboration of Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH), the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and Health Information Systems Program (HISP Uganda).

Highlights of the METS March 2024 Newsletter

  • Development of National Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Implementation Guidelines
    • To date, multiple Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems have been rolled out to health facilities without implementation guidelines to inform the standard EMR process/clinical workflows within a typical health facility, minimum requirements for various EMRs to integrate and exchange patient information, insurance and billing workflows, human resources management, among others.
    • METS Program and USAID/SITES organized a five-day stakeholder workshop on 26th February to 1st March 2024, to develop and validate the EMR Implementation Guidelines for Uganda.
  • Improving the Quality of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision
    • In February 2024, the METS Program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Implementing Partners (IMs), conducted targeted onsite mentorship across 56 safe male circumcision sites in CDC-supported regions of Uganda.
    • Key findings highlighted the overall facility performance score of 78%, with 5 out of 8 thematic areas scoring above 80%. Notably, 99% of circumcised males had received Tetanus vaccines.
  • Innovation To Strengthen National Health Care Quality Improvement
    • The 10th National Health Care Quality Improvement (QI) conference brought together health service providers from various parts of the country to share experiences and what they are doing to improve service delivery to patients.
    • The Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, called for solutions that will provide answers especially in areas of governance and leadership, health workforce, information systems, service delivery, financing, special groups, and health products.
    • METS made a presentation on improved service delivery models focusing on empowering young women to stay HIV-free with the help of the Determined Resilient Empowered AIDS-free Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) initiative.
  • Gallery
    • Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) launches state-of-the-art auditorium
    • Deploying latest EMR Version at Hoima RRH
    • Training of KCCA staff on use of Point of Care (POC) EMR
    • Stakeholder Workshop on Development of EMR Implementation Guidelines

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New Study Reveals Breastfeeding Mothers Embrace Nutrient-Rich Dish for Health Benefits

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Climbing beans on stakes in one of the gardens visited during the Efd-Mak Kabale District Sensitization in November 2021. Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

A study whose results were recently published in Food Science Nutrition, a peer-reviewed journal for rapid dissemination of research in all areas of food science and nutrition has revealed that there is a growing preference for wholesome meals, highlighting its numerous health benefits.

Titled; Lactating mothers’ perceptions and sensory acceptability of a provitamin A carotenoid–iron-rich composite dish prepared from iron-biofortified common bean and orange-fleshed sweet potato in rural western Uganda,” this study was conducted among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers seeking care at Bwera General Hospital, in Kasese district, western Uganda, between 4th and 15th of August 2023.

Researchers in a 2019 study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth among pregnant and breastfeeding women in Northwest Ethiopia discovered that pregnant and breastfeeding women bear the highest burden of this deficiency due to heightened physiological demands for iron and vitamin A. These demands increase significantly during pregnancy to meet fetal needs and continue during lactation to support breastfeeding.

The 2020 report on Developments in Nutrition among 204 countries and territories for 30 years since 1990 highlights the substantial impact of dietary iron deficiency and vitamin A deficiency on women of reproductive age in low- and middle-income countries across Africa and Asia. These micronutrient deficiencies are of paramount concern in public health nutrition due to their adverse effects.

A 2022 study published in The Lancet Global Health reveals that progress in addressing anemia among women of reproductive age (15–49 years) is inadequate to achieve the World Health Assembly’s global nutrition target of reducing anemia prevalence by 50% by 2030 in low- and middle-income countries, including Uganda.

Breastfeeding mothers require a higher intake of iron, ranging from 10–30 mg/day, compared to 8 mg/day for adult males. To help meet this increased need, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends iron supplementation programs during the postpartum period, starting immediately after delivery and continuing for the first 6 weeks.

On the other hand, the WHO advises against vitamin A supplementation during the postpartum period, as it offers no noticeable health benefits to either the mother or the infant. Instead, it encourages breastfeeding mothers to maintain a diversified diet that includes vitamin A-rich foods. However, it’s important to highlight that supplementing with vitamin A and iron during this time could enhance the content of these nutrients in breast milk.

In rural Uganda, breastfeeding mothers often face deficiencies in vital nutrients particularly vitamin A and iron. This is as a result of over reliance on plant-based local foods, like sweet potato and non-iron biofortified common bean like Nambale, which lack sufficient amounts of provitamin A and iron, respectively.

To improve vitamin A and iron intake among breastfeeding mothers, Uganda’s government, in collaboration with HarvestPlus, a global program dedicated to ending hunger through providing nutrient-rich foods launched biofortification programs. These initiatives introduced orange-fleshed sweet potato rich in provitamin A and iron-biofortified common bean as staple food in Uganda.

As part of his postdoctoral study, Dr. Edward Buzigi, a Nutritionist and Food security expert, at University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, evaluated the perceptions and sensory acceptability of a dish made from a combination of orange-fleshed sweet potato and iron-biofortified common bean, known for their high levels of provitamin A carotenoids and iron.

The aim was to determine whether the test food could replace the traditional white-fleshed sweet potato and non-iron biofortified common beans, which lacks these essential nutrients.

Ninety-four breastfeeding mothers took part in the study comparing two foods. Participants assessed the taste, color, aroma, texture, and overall acceptability of both the test and control foods using a five-point scale. Ratings ranged from “dislike very much” to “like very much,” with attributes deemed acceptable if participants rated them as “like” or “like very much.”

Also, focus group discussions were held to explore participants’ thoughts on future consumption of the test food alongside statistical analysis done using the chi-square test to compare sensory attributes between the two food options, while the qualitative data from focus group discussions were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Findings revealed that taste, color, and aroma were satisfactory to the mothers and showed no significant difference between test food and control food. Mothers had favorable views of the taste, aroma, and color of orange-fleshed sweet potato and iron-biofortified common bean but expressed concerns about the soft texture of orange-fleshed sweet potato. Despite this, breastfeeding mothers expressed positive attitudes towards consuming orange-fleshed sweet potato and iron-biofortified common bean, as long as it was accessible, affordable, and easy to prepare.

Dr. Buzigi lecturers at the Department of Community Health and Behavioural Sciences at Makerere University School of Public Health in Uganda.

Read the scientific article here;  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/fsn3.4053

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Call for Applications: AWE Change Masters fellowship programme support

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L-R: The Departments of Family Medicine (School of Medicine) and Human Anatomy (School of Biomedical Sciences) Buildings, College of Health Sciences (CHS), Mulago Hill, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Makerere University College of Health Sciences in collaboration with Duke University, USA are conducting a national collaborative research study on Epilepsy with local leading researchers in the fields of neurology and psychology in Uganda and international experts in the field of neurology and neurosurgery in the USA. The study aims to investigate the panorama of epilepsy in Uganda across the life span by clinically characterizing its features, comorbidities, and risk factors among the general population, with a focus on stigma among adolescents.

Applications are invited for the AWE Change Masters fellowship programme support from postgraduate students of:

  • Makerere University College of Health Sciences
  • Mbarara University of Science and Technology
  • Gulu University

The closing date for the receipt of applications is 22nd May 2024.

Submit all Enquiries and Applications to awechangeproject@gmail.com

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