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Rising Childhood Obesity: Mak Researchers Investigate Unhealthy Food and Beverage Advertising to Children

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By Joseph Odoi

In Uganda, many children are exposed to aggressive advertisement of unhealthy foods and sugar sweetened non-alcoholic beverages which in turn prepares their mind as future potential clients. Unfortunately, there is little understanding on the extent, nature and impact of children’s exposure to food and non-alcoholic beverage advertising trends in Uganda.

Driven by this worrying trend and increasing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), researchers at Makerere University have embarked on a study to promote regulated unhealthy food and sugar sweetened beverage advertising. 

A research project titled Food and beverage Advertising to Children in Uganda(FACe-U),  with funding from Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF), has been commissioned to understand advertising patterns of unhealthy foods and non-alcoholic beverages towards children below 18 years. This study comes at a time when there’s coinciding increase in overweight and obesity cases among children in Uganda.  The project will also investigate the extent to which content  influences children’s food choices and suggest changes for more responsible food  and beverage advertising. This will contribute towards creating a healthy food environment in Uganda.

According  to Dr. Gloria Seruwagi, the Project lead  and Principal Investigator, young children are gaining more weight early, mostly because of the foods they eat, pushed by advertising.“We are seeing an increase in waist size. Children are becoming more obese and overweight mostly because of the foods that they consume, the lifestyles we are allowing them as parents and caretakers. This brings complications to children which may affect their overall development and academic performance. We need to protect impressionable children and adolescents. Recently the World Health Organisation through the Global RECAP program and engagement of policymakers in Uganda, confirmed that ‘marketing restrictions to children’ is a number one priority issue in Uganda. We need to support global and national effort to strengthen capacity of key actors in promoting healthy diets and increase physical activity for the prevention of NCDs.

Dr. Gloria Seruwagi (R) the study PI and Ms. Florence Tushemereirwe the Co-PI and Public Health Nutritionist  at MakSPH discuss the FACe-U study
Dr. Gloria Seruwagi (R) the study PI and Ms. Florence Tushemereirwe the Co-PI and Public Health Nutritionist at MakSPH discuss the FACe-U study

We hope that our study findings will inform and support policy actions to regulate irresponsible production and advertising; create healthy food environments that prevent childhood obesity; and contribute towards achieving the Uganda Nutrition Action Plan II (2020-2025) and the country’s Strategic Development Goals” she remarked. This study is foundational and shall begin by undertaking a situation analysis. For example; we shall assess how often unhealthy food and beverages adverts feature on TV, the airing period (at what time), how many times, and the persuasive content targeting children and adolescents.” she added. The study will use empirical and media monitoring data to determine trends of magnitude of advertising and types of food and non-alcoholic beverages advertised to children in Uganda.

According to the Study Co-PI Florence Tushemereirwe, this one year  study is a partnership between a team of researchers at Makerere University School of Public Health(MakSPH) and the School of Social Sciences (CHUSS). The project team also includes Maureen Nabatanzi (Research Fellow), Dr. Priscilla Cheptyo (Research Officer), Maria Ssematiko  and Flavia Nakacwa (Project Liason and Administrator respectively).The team has mentors based at MakSPH, APHRC in Nairobi, Sciencano and Institute of Tropical Medicine, in Belgium.

Expected Outcomes of Face-U Project

  1. Increased understanding on the nature and extent of food and non-alcoholic beverages advertising to children. We shall use real time television, radio and newspaper data, including video clips and pictures where appropriate, to generate this outcome.
  2. Categories of food and non-alcoholic beverages advertised to children using the AFRO nutrient profile model. Categorizing the types of food and beverages advertised shows the nature of food advertised to influence children’s food choices and diets.
  3. Analysis and documentation of the persuasive techniques used to promote food and sweetened beverages to children and children’s preferred media channels. Food and non-alcoholic beverages advertisers use content to persuade children and capture innocent children’s minds early in life to prepare them as future clients for their products. This outcome will directly contribute towards food and beverage regulation – specifically on marketing to children in Uganda.

In her remarks, Florence Basiimwa Tushemerirwe, a public health nutritionist and Co-Principal Investigator of the project  said the study will be implemented in Mbale, Kabale, Kampala and the surrounding areas. Ms. Tushemerirwe  said that the team chose study sites like Kabale owing to the fact that it’s  a meeting place for more than 3 countries; e.g. Uganda , Rwanda, Burundi and DRC Congo. Mbale district receives products from South Sudan and Kenya. The Kampala Metropolitan area represents urban settings with higher exposure to advertising among children, partly due to TV access and billboard adverts among others.

Florence Tushemereirwe, the Study Co-PI from Makerere University School of Public Health emphasises a point.

Dr. Cheputyo Priscilla,  a member  of  the research team, gave insight into how Uganda is currently undergoing a nutrition transition with many children becoming overweight and obese, according to national data.Obesity is caused by many factors but the most common is consumption of foods that are high in calories. “We get most of the calories from sweet sugars, added to processed foods like sodas, yogurts and baked products in the supermarkets; we get calories from fatty foods like chips, fried foods like chicken, chaps, rolex, and more from fast food restaurants,” she explained.Florence Tushemereirwe, the Study Co-PI from Makerere University School of Public Health makes a point

National Obesity Statistics

In 2016, Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) found: 4% of children under five years, and 16% of adolescent girls were obese, a rise from 2.4% of boys and 2.1% of girls in 2014. Therefore, it is the right time for Uganda to nip these health conditions in the bud.

More information on the FACe-U study, including updates, stakeholder engagement and research outputs can be found here

Health

MU-JHU Positions: Locum Midwives/Nurses – WOMANPOWER Study June 2021

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Female staff at the Makerere University –Johns Hopkins University (MU-JHU) Research Collaboration Family Care Centre. Photo credit: MU-JHU

The Makerere University-Johns Hopkins (MU-JHU) Research Collaboration – MU-JHU CARE LTD, a Kampala – based equal opportunities Clinical Research and Service Delivery Organisation with more than 350 employees is seeking interested, committed and reliable professionals with the described qualifications to apply for the Locum positions listed below in support of the EDCTP funded studies. The positions are Locum positions on short term contract for 6 months.

1. Locum Midwife/Nurse: multiple positions
    Reports To: Nurse Coordinator
    Duty station: MUJHU, Kisenyi HCIV and Kawempe National Referral Hospital

Required qualifications and profile:

A Diploma in Midwifery/Nursing, with current registration for practice from the Uganda Nurses and Midwives councils (UNMC) with interest in working in a busy labour ward with minimum supervision. The candidates are required to have worked for at least three (3) years in a busy health centre/institution. Previous work experience in a clinical research environment and/or with HIV, TB and/or MCH clinical care would be a strong advantage. Computer literacy is required. The successful candidates should be willing and able to work extended duty shifts i.e. 12 hour day, and 12 hour night shifts, including public holidays and weekends.

The holder of this position will work under the direct supervision of the Nurse Coordinator with guidance from the Head of Nursing Section, and will be responsible for the following duties:

  • Working closely with other health professionals/research staff to obtain consents.
  • Provide midwifery/nursing care to study participants as well as do phlebotomy, cord blood sampling and other sample collection as required.
  • Collect data using tablets and laptops.
  • Participate in study data quality assurance and control.
  • Any other duties reasonably assigned by the relevant authorities.
  • Maintain professional GCP/HSP accreditation and complete study specific training as required.

Applications with complete C.Vs, including 3 referees and their full addresses or contact Telephone numbers, copies of academic certificates and testimonials, should be hand delivered to: MU-JHU Human Resource Manager, through the reception on first floor, MUJHU 1 Building – not later than 25th June, 2021 by 5.30pm.

Only short-listed applicants will be contacted. Successful candidates will be expected to start work immediately.

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Health

Psychological Services for Community Members While Home

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Female Students hold a group discussion at the Main Campus, Makerere University.

COVID-19 is a terrible disease that has brought about so many psychological challenges within the population but with many more effects to the students and the entire community. Already as students were departing yesterday they made remarks like “shall we ever finish?” “Let us go and get married” etc. They put on faces of sadness, anxiety, and many other forms of negative emotions. At their homes parents too some are having other challenges and anxieties that we need to help them deal with.

The Counselling and Guidance Centre is going to intensify its online presence as an avenue to reach out to the community. We shall do the following:

  1. With support from the College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS) staff we developed an App UniCare which people can download and reach a counsellor of their choice via e-mail, telephone, chat etc at any time at their convenience.
  2. We intend to have a zoom session every fortnight addressing a topic of interest basing on the prevailing need.
  3. Yesterday we held a meeting with student leaders who promised to work with us to deliver any content we develop to students via students’ WhatsApp groups.
  4. We are going to have continuous engagements with students via the Counselling and Guidance Centre Twitter and Facebook accounts.

We lost a student (Byengyera Natasha) from the School of Law to suicide on Sunday and she will be buried tomorrow.

We want to do our best to provide all support possible using the avenues above to support members of the community and we call upon you to reach out to as many students as possible with this information. Thank you very much.

We build for the future.

Henry Nsubuga
Manager, Counselling and Guidance Centre,
Plot 106, Mary Stuart Road (Opposite Mary Stuart Hall),
Makerere University
Email: hnsubuga[at]cgc.mak.ac.ug
Tel: +256-772-558022

Click here for more information about the Counselling and Guidance Centre

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Health

MakSPH Annual Report 2020

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

Dear Reader,

I am pleased to introduce our 2020 Annual Report, which illustrates the Makerere University School of Public Health, (MakSPH)’s shared commitment to advancing excellence in public health education, research, and innovation in Uganda and beyond.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the School of Public Health teams working together with the Ministry of Health and other partners moved fast towards enhancing the knowledge and awareness of our communities and other public health interventions to combat the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate a public health crisis that has thrown the world into disarray. We quickly adapted to the new normal, moving to working in a virtual environment and using blended approaches, to deliver our teaching, learning and research activities.

The pandemic has been a great challenge and slowed down several activities. However, this challenge has also propelled us towards fast-tracking some of our planned advancements including virtual
learning and partnerships, and has accelerated our public health innovations in a bid to contribute solutions to the current and future public health challenges.

Research

Our research has focused on current issues to support evidence-based decision making, and mitigate the impact of the pandemic on essential health and other services, especially in vulnerable groups such as adolescents and children, refugees, among others.

Construction

In 2020, we embarked on construction of our new home that we hope will reduce the space constraints for our staff and students. I am happy to report that the construction is now under way at Makerere University Main Campus. We are sincerely grateful to our partners, sponsors and staff for the efforts towards this great move.

Community Engagement

Our teams have maintained a very active community engagement focus and working with various stakeholders to share research findings and support processes for knowledge translation. We have also maintained a high level of scientific research outputs including over 250 peer reviewed publications in 2020. I cannot thank our researchers enough for this great effort.

Grants

The number of partnerships, grants and volume of work at the School has grown within Uganda and the African region. We are very grateful to our funders; partners and stakeholders for this continued growth.

I acknowledge the extraordinary efforts made by all our staff, students and alumni. We look forward to another productive year and decade of better service to our communities.

Have a nice read.

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

Please Downloads for the full report.

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