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Mukono RDC Commends Mak on Empowering VHTs; Calls on Parliament to Appropriate Resources to Motivate them

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Hajat Fatuma Ndisaba Nabitaka, the Resident District Commissioner for Mukono district has appealed to Ugandan legislators to support efforts of community health workers (CHWs)/VHTs through appropriating some remuneration for them.

Hajat Nabitaka said she has moved the entire Mukono District during the COVID-19 pandemic period and throughout the taskforces and has since appreciated the great role played by CHWs.

“We thank you so much, you are the frontline soldiers. Because you do sensitize our people in the communities and you are always there throughout. If those in parliament could know what you do, they would speak passionately for you to receive some kind of salary,” said Hajat Nabitaka.

She was speaking at a dissemination workshop for Makerere University School of Public Health’s Cardiovascular Disease prevention program under the SPICES project held on December 8th 2021 at Colline Hotel in Mukono district.

“Sincerely speaking, we have many people who receive a lot of money, yet their out-put is minimal as compared to the work done by VHTs. I am appealing to the Commissioner [NCDs], researchers to advocate for renumeration for VHTs. I think this catchment area of the VHTs is the best. They are the ones who can solve some of the social problems affecting majority of families. Kindly think about the VHTs, keep up training the VHTs and speak for them,” she added.

Hajat Fatuma Ndisaba Nabitaka, the Resident District Commissioner for Mukono district
Hajat Fatuma Ndisaba Nabitaka, the Resident District Commissioner for Mukono district.

 Dr. Gerald Mutungi, assistant Commissioner Health Services- Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) department at the Ministry of Health says currently, the VHTs are working under non-monetary motivation scheme.

“They have been working and we are discussing their small allowance in the Ministry. The problem is that the numbers are so big. Even when you give them small allowances the budget becomes so big,” Dr. Mutungi observes.

Dr. Gerald Mutungi, assistant Commissioner Health Services- Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) department at the Ministry of Health
Dr. Gerald Mutungi, assistant Commissioner Health Services- Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) department at the Ministry of Health

He further advances that; “But to tell you the truth, the discussion is in the Ministry. I don’t know how it will end but this adds on the evidence that they are so useful and that they need to be motivated.”

The SPICES project Principal Investigator Dr. Geofrey Musinguzi says the study has proven  that if well trained, community health workers (CHWs/VHTs) have potential to deliver messages on prevention and control of cardiovascular diseases as well as enhance awareness amongst the various risk factors that raise cardiovascular diseases.

Through VHTs, the SPICES project reached a total of 10,936 people in households in 80 randomly selected villages in Mukono and Buikwe. Dr. Musinguzi contends that, trained VHTs that are trusted in communities are a gateway to increased community knowledge about CVDs and participation.

SPICES project Principal Investigator Dr. Geofrey Musinguzi
SPICES project Principal Investigator Dr. Geofrey Musinguzi

“As you observed, out of the many people the y [VHTs] visited, only 1% rejected them in their households. So, 99% were receiving them. So, to us we really think that is one resource that is available. If supported, they can actually deliver more in prevention of cardiovascular diseases,” said Dr. Musinguzi.

Under community intervention model of the SPICES project, Dr. Musinguzi notes that the key enablers of implementing the program is the availability of committed and motivated VHTs, receptive communities, supporting local and religious leaders as well as social gatherings and infrastructure like SACCOs, worship places, local infrastructure such as radios, public address system for health education.

Despite the unprecedented times brought by COVID-19 community health workers with support from SPICES project reached out a number of households in the project area in respect to CVDs. The project sensitized and empowered community health workers and health workers on COVID-19 prevention and subsequently equipped with tools such as facemasks, sanitizers, temperature monitors and standard operating procedures.

“Community Health Workers are largely motivated and over two years working with them, we have actually seen them do a lot of work, deliver these interventions. They have also reached quite a number of people in the households. COVID was a problem in reaching out those places but amidst that challenge, we moved to the community members,” contends Dr. Musinguzi.

Sarah Nalweyiso, a Village Health Team Member in Buikwe District says they (community health workers) received training in September 2020 under the SPICES project on how to continue with the work amidst the pandemic challenges.

“We received gumboots, notebooks, pens, sanitizers and masks,” says Nalweyiso.

 The SPICES project Principal Investigator Dr. Geofrey Musinguzi alongside  Dr. Gerald Mutungi, assistant Commissioner Health Services- Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) department at the Ministry of Health hands certificates to Community Health Workers at a dissemination workshop held on December 8th 2021 at Colline Hotel in Mukono district.
 The SPICES project Principal Investigator Dr. Geofrey Musinguzi alongside  Dr. Gerald Mutungi, assistant Commissioner Health Services- Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) department at the Ministry of Health hands certificates to Community Health Workers at a dissemination workshop held on December 8th 2021 at Colline Hotel in Mukono district.

She adds that they trained community members about behavior change and highlighting dangers of excessive consumption of alcohol, benefits of exercising, reducing consumption of cooking oils as well as eating fruits and vegetables.

“When we finished the training, we came back to our villages and started examining people using the risk factor assessment tools to evaluate the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Esther Namaganda, another VHT member from Buikwe district says; “We moved around our communities mainly to screen the members for risk factors of cardiovascular diseases.”

The poor health seeking behavior was one of the highlighted contributors to delayed presentation to health facilities with cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Isaac Ssinabulya, Cardiologist at the Uganda Heart Institute -UHI thanked SPICES Project on the great work it has done.

“We conducted research, myself and Dr. Mutungi on non-communicable diseases and established that the highest percentage of the most affected people are in communities, nearly 60%. We only see fewer people in hospitals,” Dr. Ssinabulya.

He adds that there are many people who flock UHI from farther places in this country coming for treatment and end up spending a lot of money, yet the diseases can be prevented.

Dr. Ssinabulya hailed the Community Health Workers for their support in ensuring people are empowered and are able to be screened early enough in order to mitigate the risks associated to advanced treatment of CVDs which include high cost of treatment as well as loss of life.

Pressure is one of the highly prevalent diseases in Mukono and Buikwe at 24%. “This high number requires to ensure that whoever visits our health facilities is screened and are counseled towards keeping healthy lifestyles. Let us work together to reduce the queues of people coming for treatment,” says Dr. Ssinabulya.

Dr Josephine Birungi, a Senior Research Scientist based at Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute (MRC/UVRI) in Entebbe underscored the role of VHTs and noted that their work and contribution can be sustained through continuous engagement and training.

 Dr Josephine Birungi Research Scientist based at Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute (MRC/UVRI) and Dr. Isaac Ssinabulya, Cardiologist at the Uganda Heart Institute -UHI
 Dr Josephine Birungi Research Scientist based at Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute (MRC/UVRI) and Dr. Isaac Ssinabulya, Cardiologist at the Uganda Heart Institute -UHI

She commended the VHTs on the good work. “We need to deploy family-centered-approach to educate the masses about these challenges such as NCDs. It will help efforts by SPICES project to continue. For instance if I knew my husband has diabetes, I will not put a lot of salt in food. But if I don’t know, we shall not make a change.”

She tipped both health workers and the Ministry of Health on continuous capacity building as well as sensitization of the masses.

“We need to sensitize the masses. We should reciprocate the attention we give to HIV/AIDs to NCDs. I appeal to all of you to support sensitization of our communities not only about heart diseases but also on other diseases such as HIV/AIDs among others,” Dr. Birungi.

Article originally published on MakSPH website.

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Mak’s GMI Labs Authorized to Conduct DNA Paternity Testing

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Some of the equipment used to store samples at the Makerere University Biomedical Research Centre (MakBRC), College of Health Sciences (CHS). Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

The Genomics, Molecular, and Immunology Laboratories (GMI Labs), operating under the auspices of the Makerere University Biomedical Research Center (MakBRC), have achieved another significant milestone in their journey of diagnostic excellence. The labs, renowned for their pivotal role in infectious and non-infectious disease research, have received official approval from the Director General Health Services at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Uganda, to conduct DNA Paternity Tests.

Situated at the Dept of Immunology & Molecular Biology under the School of Biomedical Sciences at the College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, the GMI Labs have been at the forefront of cutting-edge research, diagnostic testing, and training initiatives. Their remarkable contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic, where they conducted nearly a million PCR tests, underscored their unwavering commitment to public health and scientific advancement. The labs’ exemplary performance and reliability were further highlighted by their successful management of two critical COVID-19 prevalence surveys. The findings of these surveys served as foundational data for crucial decisions guiding the country’s lockdown strategies and phased reopening, earning commendation from the President and the Ministry of Health.

This latest authorization from the Ministry of Health marks a significant expansion of the GMI Labs’ diagnostic capabilities. With the approval to conduct DNA Paternity Tests, the labs are now equipped to offer a crucial service addressing the need for accurate and reliable genetic testing for determining biological parentage. In a letter dated 22nd November 2023, the Director General Health Services emphasized the laboratory’s rigorous adherence to international standards, proficiency in molecular biology techniques, and their proven track record in delivering precise and credible results. This approval further solidifies the labs’ position as a trusted institution for advanced genetic diagnostics in Uganda.

Prof. Moses L Joloba, the Director of the GMI Labs, expressed immense pride in the team’s dedication and expertise that led to this authorization. He highlighted the labs’ commitment to upholding the highest standards of ethical practice, confidentiality, and accuracy in DNA paternity testing, ensuring the delivery of dependable results crucial for legal, personal, and familial purposes.

The inclusion of DNA Paternity Testing within the GMI Labs’ list of services aligns with their overarching goal of advancing healthcare through state-of-the-art diagnostics, research, and education. This milestone represents not only a significant achievement for the labs but also a valuable resource for individuals seeking reliable and comprehensive genetic testing services. As the GMI Labs continue their unwavering commitment to excellence in healthcare and research, this new capability reaffirms their pivotal role in advancing the frontiers of molecular diagnostics and genetic testing in Uganda, working closely with reputable institutions such as Makerere University Hospital and other top-notch health facilities.

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MNCH e-Post Issue 121: Learning from Nsambya Hospital Human Milk Bank to inform national scale-up & save preterm babies

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A Screenshot of Prof. Peter Waiswa during his interview with NTV. MNCH e-Post Issue No. 121, MakSPH, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Welcome to this exclusive interview with Prof. Peter Waiswa, lead expert from the Makerere University Centre of Excellence for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. Dr. Victoria Nakibuuka from St. Francis Nsambya Hospital, and Dr. Jesca Nsungwa from Ministry of Health Uganda. In this video, they discuss a groundbreaking innovation in Uganda’s healthcare landscape: the country’s first-ever human milk bank at St. Francis Hospital Nsambya. This initiative represents a significant stride towards improving the survival rates of premature and vulnerable infants by ensuring access to essential breast milk, even when mothers are unable to produce enough. Watch Video

Click here to View the full MNCH e-Post Issue 121

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METS Newsletter October 2023

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Front Row (Left to Right): The hosts - Dr. Alice Namale and Ms. Evelyn Akello with Commissioner Allan Muruta and representatives from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) enjoy a photo moment on 5th October 2023. Photo: METS. Plot 20A Kawalya Kaggwa Close, Kololo 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 October 2023 Newsletter

  • Strategies for Enhanced Disease Surveillance and Public Health Response in Uganda
    • The MoH Department of Integrated Epidemiology Surveillance & Public Health Emergencies (IES&PHE) Head, Commissioner Allan Muruta (Dr) visited METS to acquaint himself with the various surveillance activities supported by the Program.
    • Commissioner Muruta emphasized the need to build the capacity of districts and regions to conduct surveillance activities by training the relevant staff and establishing surveillance focal points at health facility levels.
    • He further emphasized the importance of linking laboratory data to the District Health Information System (DHIS2) and ensuring that different systems are interoperable.
  • Improving quality of data for HIV testing services (HTS) through regular assessments
    • MoH has been conducting Data Quality Assessments and Improvement (DQAI) activities to inform program planning, monitoring, and performance management. HIV testing services (HTS) inter was conducted in 16 regions, 81 districts, and 111 health facilities in partnership with 26 Implementing partners.
    • The HTS DQA has improved data management, infrastructure, and understanding of indicators. Specific staff assignment at each HTS entry point has proven effective, and use of the UgandaEMR system for reporting has yielded positive results.
  • Shaping Uganda’s Healthcare Data Landscape
    • METS has maintained a strong collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) providing invaluable technical support in developing various strategic guidelines for the country. These guidelines include the Uganda Health Information Exchange and Interoperability (HIE) Guidelines, the Uganda Health Data Protection and Confidentiality (HDPC) Guidelines, and the Uganda Health Data Sharing, Access, and Use Guidelines.
    • HIE and HDPC guidelines have received the endorsement of the Health Information, Innovation and Research (HIIRE) Technical Working Group (TWG), awaiting presentation to the senior management team at the MoH for final approval.
  • Empowering Health Professionals: PrEP Training in Hoima District
    • MakSPH-METS has taken a proactive stance in supporting Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) for key populations through the development, management, and conducting trainings on the use of the PrEP tracker system across various agencies.
    • METS conducted a 5-day training on the KP/PrEP Tracker system in Hoima district. Moving forward, facility staff will be able to enter data on PrEP services into the system in a timely manner, analyze the data, and use it for program improvement.
  • Gallery
    • HIV testing services (HTS) Data Quality Assessments and Improvement DQAIs
    • Interagency cervical cancer on-site mentorships
    • Orientation in KP tracker-Soroti
    • TDY from CDC headquarters visit to METS
    • M&E orientation meetings for new Implementing Partners
    • Planning meeting for Cross Border Data Sharing-Busia

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