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New Research Affirms Need to Engage Communities During Pandemics

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By Racheal Ninsiima 

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, anecdotal reports in popular media suggested that there was low risk perception of the disease among communities and hesitancy to implement prevention and mitigation measures. The Government of Uganda mostly employed a top-down approach in implementing COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures, with limited meaningful community engagement as part of the response. Consequently, this left many people unconvinced about the existence of the pandemic and relevance of the mitigation measures. As such, there was negative perception of the mitigation measures and a reluctance to implement them.

These observations were revealed in a new study titled: ‘Owning our future through community engagement: enhancing uptake of COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures’ whose research findings were disseminated on 3rd August 2021 at Makerere University’s College of Health Sciences (MakCHS). The study was conducted between November 2020 and January 2021 by a team of researchers led by Prof. Nelson Sewankambo as Principal Investigator. Others were: Dr. David Kaawa-Mafigiri from Makerere University’s College of Humanities and Dr. Daniel Semakula from MakCHS. The study, conducted in Nakawa and Kawempe divisions of Kampala, aimed to assess the prevailing attitudes and perceptions towards COVID-19 mitigation measures; the likelihood of accepting a potential COVID-19 vaccine and the impact of the disease on livelihoods among vulnerable populations in Kampala. It was funded by the Government of the Republic of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MakRIF)

During the dissemination, Prof. Sewankambo told participants that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda, there has hardly been any community engagement to empower individuals, households and communities to take charge of their health and social wellbeing.

“We know that community engagement was a success feature in controlling the Ebola Virus Disease epidemics in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and West Africa. However, the impact of community engagement in the COVID-19 pandemic is unknown for policy and action,” Prof Sewankambo said. 

Therefore, the study hypothesized that the success of any measures against the COVID-19 pandemic required community participation, ownership and sustainability of the efforts at grassroots levels.  

Key Findings 

Using survey questionnaires, household conversations, focus group discussions and in-depth interviews, over 1,200 men, women and children aged above 12 in 858 households were examined. Survey results indicate that majority of the participants were aware of COVID-19 prevention measures with use of face masks being most renown (n=768 (90.57%)) followed by handwashing (n=743 (87.62%)). Others were: use of an alcohol-based sanitizer (n=537 (63.33%)), avoiding crowds (n= 491 (57.9%)), staying at home (n= 355 (41.86%)) and avoiding physical greetings (n=326 (38.44%)).

However, despite being aware of these prevention measures, Dr. Semakula reported that adherence substantially reduced by month eight of the pandemic. For example, majority (n= 675 (80%)) did not wear masks at all, or wore them inappropriately such as under their chins, or foreheads or partially covering the mouth by month eight of the pandemic. Similarly, only a small fraction (n=130 (15.6%)) of participants washed their hands (with or without soap) regularly when the opportunity presented, e.g., after greeting visitors, touching unhygienic objects, or visiting washrooms. 

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Please click the embedded video below to watch proceedings of the research dissemination


Mak-RIF Research Dissemination: Owning our Future through Community Engagement

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Fostering Continuous Improvement of Public Health Laboratory Services In Uganda: IDI’s Contribution (2018-2020)

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One of the staff uses the Abbott m2000 RealTime System in the Core Laboratory (CL), IDI, Makerere University.

The Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI), Makerere University houses a state of the art laboratory – the Core Laboratory (CL) – certified by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) and accredited by the Uganda Ministry of Health (MoH) as a lead partner in strengthening laboratory systems.

In line with its 5-year (2018-2023) goal of ‘providing high-quality lab services at IDI to meet both clinical and research demands, to support the sustained improvement of lab capacity across Uganda with systems of assured and consistent quality’ to conduct routine testing, specialized clinical research trials, and detection of virulent pathogens of epidemic outbreak nature.

To match internationally standards for clinical laboratory methodologies and clinical applications, the CL has maintained a 25-year record of conducting at least 01 internal audit, 04 external audits annually, besides bi-annual inspections by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), to incorporate the latest best practices. Further, the CL continuously improves its technology and automation to increase productivity and enhance testing turnaround time (TAT).

The CL operates in a One IDI approach, where sister Technical Programs source its support, besides the Ministry of Health of Uganda, local and international academic research institutions and individual research fellows. The outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019 was an opportunity for growth and expansion for the CL, to support national and global preparedness and response to infection prevention and control (IPC). To date, the CL has registered several milestones in enhancing disease laboratory TAT for COVID-19 testing, strengthening human capacity at the forefront on COVID-19 IPC, sustaining laboratory services for other communicable and non-communicable diseases as well as answering research questions.

Please see Downloads for the full technical brief.

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UniCare App: 24/7 Access to Counselling

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UniCare App: 24/7 Access to Professional Counselling Services. Available on Google Play Store.

The Counselling and Guidance Centre (CGC) has developed UniCare, a counselling App for the Makerere University community members (Staff and Students).

Do you have personal concerns that need addressing?

Do you need to improve your life skills?

Are you struggling with something and need to talk to someone professional in confidence?

Then download UniCare from the Play Store and use it at any time of your convenience.

You can access counselling services through instant messaging, phone calls and other forms.

Enquiries:

Tel: +256-751-700897
Email: rbaguma[at]cit.ac.ug, henry.nsubuga[at]mak.ac.ug

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Call for Applications: PhD Fellowships in Bioethics (4th Cohort)

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The Davies Lecture Theatre (Right), School of Biomedical Sciences (Blue) and other buildings at the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Mulago Campus, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

Applications are invited for PhD fellowships in bioethics from Makerere University College of Health Sciences (CHS) faculty and individuals who participate in the academic activities of the college who are interested and COMMITTED to becoming bioethics scholars.

Successful applicants should be willing to become bioethics scholars as they work within the structured and mentored training programme with a focus on any aspect of international research bioethics related to Health Sciences. Funding will be available to support 2 successful doctoral candidates up to 3 years of accelerated training leading to the award of the Makerere University doctoral degree.

Eligibility

This training is open to faculty including people who contribute to teaching and research at Makerere University or one of its partner institutions in Uganda, who meet any of the following criteria:

a. Able to articulate a clear research bioethics problem of interest to them.
b. Demonstrate prior participation in bioethics, beyond having submitted research proposals to an IRB.
c. Demonstrate a basic understanding of bioethics in order to know that this is an appropriate next step for the applicant.
d. Demonstrate past active participation in bioethics in health service delivery or at the interface of health related ethical-legal issues
e. Provide evidence of experience in research in bioethics and or authorship in this field
f. Prior master’s level or fellowship level training in bioethics or related fields.

Criteria for Selection

  1. Demonstrated interest in doctoral research training and conducting research with a focus on
    research bioethics.
  2. Potential to handle rigorous academic requirements of the doctoral program.
  3. Having a plan for career development
  4. Capacity towards attaining research leadership and international recognition in bioethics.
  5. Female candidates and medical doctors are especially encouraged to apply

Application Process

Applications must be submitted to makbioethics[at]gmail.com and should consist of a cover letter (1 page only), a resume (not more than 3 pages), a personal statement (Maximum 1 page), a Makerere University formatted PhD research concept (Maximum 10 pages) and two letters of recommendation (sent separately by the referees to makbioethics[at]gmail.com). The personal statement should include your contribution to the academic and research life of a department at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, your aspirations for career progression in the next 5-7 years, research interests and any information you consider relevant.

Closing date for the receipt of applications is 8th October 2021.

Enquiries can be forwarded to the PI, of the PhD bioethics research training Program on makbioethics[at]gmail.com

Timelines:

  • Application deadline: October 8, 2021
  • Interviews: October 15, 2021
  • Notification date: October 22, 2021
  • Proposed start date: November 1, 2021

Part of this training will take place at Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics in the USA in Year 1 for a total of 2-3 months. Successful candidates will receive a monthly stipend based on USA National Institutes of Health regulations, tuition, research funds and travel to the USA. Applicants should demonstrate excellent communications skills and will be expected to work as part of a highly motivated, result oriented bioethics group.

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