One of KI’s largest international collaborations is with Makerere University in Uganda. In time for Makerere’s 100th anniversary, the partnership is to manifest itself in a Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health. A delegation from KI travelled in May to Uganda to cement the relationship.
“The foundation of a virtual centre for sustainable health gives us a totally new way to build international collaborations,” says KI president, Ole Petter Ottersen. “Mutuality and far-sightedness will pervade all our projects with the aim of improving health for all. The centre will enable more international collaborations, not just in Uganda but also with more countries in Africa, such as Somalia, and other parts of the world. In today’s turbulent world, it is especially important to work on a global stage and stand up for responsible internationalisation.”
From research to extensive collaboration
The partnership between Makerere University and Karolinska Institutet was established back in 2000. At first it was mainly focused on research, but it was soon extended to everything from student and teacher exchanges to joint doctoral studies. There is now a related alumni network containing hundreds of researchers and healthcare workers in Sweden and Uganda.
One of the students who was quick to snap up the chance to change their study environment from Makerere University to Karolinska Institutet was Noeline Nakasujja. Today, she is a practising psychiatrist and departmental head at the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Health Sciences, Makerere University.
“I spent a month in Stockholm in 2005, which was a real eye-opening experience,” she says. “It opened a window onto our cultural differences and onto the differences in resources between universities. It made me realise how much we can achieve even with limited resources.”
Since the exchange programme began, some 300 students and teachers have participated.
“During my time in Sweden, I almost immediately saw a clear difference in student-teacher relations,” she continues. “We have a much more marked hierarchy. At Karolinska Institutet, I saw how it was even possible to have a more relaxed relationship without compromising the seriousness of the teaching.”
After her exchange, Noeline Nakasujja also took the opportunity to take a joint PhD at KI and Makerere.
“My time as a doctoral student led to me receiving a doctoral student from KI,” she says. “That personal contact was the key to creating a platform that has enabled others to successfully navigate a foreign university.”
Since then, Noeline Nakasujja and her department have accepted numerous students from KI, and she finds her first-hand experience of the Swedish study environment comes in very useful here. She now believes that the new Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health can deepen the relationship between the two universities even more.
“We need to strengthen the preventative work we’re doing in Ugandan healthcare,” she says. “Patients with Alzheimer’s can particularly benefit from early intervention, such as physical exercise and social activities that help to slow the onset of disease.”
She goes on: “The only way to create truly sustainable health and social care services is by breaking the circle and offering prophylactic intervention.”
There are several partners attached to the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health, including universities in Congo, Somalia, Kenya, Malawi and Ethiopia.
“The collaboration enables us to create an environment for the exchange of knowledge and experience that will have a knock-on effect on other international partnerships,” she explains.
Innovation developed in Uganda now implemented in Sweden
Susanne Guidetti, professor of occupational therapy at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society has been involved in developing student and teacher exchanges between Makerere and KI since 2004. Back then, she had just come home from having lived with her family in Nairobi for a few years and was put straight in touch with Julius Kamwesiga, an affiliate of Makerere University.
The studies were conducted with Mulago National Specialised Hospital and gave the participants access to daily exercise with the help of their mobile phones. Stroke awareness is low in Uganda, where most people live in remote areas far from the nearest clinic.
“When we can work together to offer more people stroke rehabilitation, we give them a real possibility to live a better life,” Guidetti says. “After the project, one of the participants came up to me and said: ‘The surgeon helped me survive, but my contacts with the occupational therapist made life worth living again’.”
The study will now undergo a larger-scale follow-up in Uganda, and its findings have prompted further studies in Sweden.
“What made our study unique was that we brought knowledge and experience from Uganda to Sweden. Here, our innovation will make it possible to help stroke patients in remote parts of Sweden, too,” she says. “There are now several mobile phone-based rehab options, but in Uganda we helped to pioneer the technique.”
Today, Guidetti has an important part to play in the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health.
“Our project is a good example of how we can create an equivalent platform for sharing knowledge. Hopefully, we’ll be able to develop it further at the Centre and take new steps together towards sustainable health.”
The Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health enables not only the sharing of knowledge and experiences, but also the development and spread of innovations that can bring the goal of sustainable global health closer to being achieved. The knowledge and the network that the centre possesses make it easier for us to take on today’s pressing societal challenges together, not only in Sweden and Uganda but globally, too.
“We have an incredible amount to learn from each other,” says Professor Ottersen. “Let us be inspired by each other’s solutions, big and small, and together find more ways to tackle global health challenges. With the founding of the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health, our partnership takes the step from aid funding to being a true partner-driven collaboration.”
Mak’s GMI Labs Authorized to Conduct DNA Paternity Testing
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.
MNCH e-Post Issue 121: Learning from Nsambya Hospital Human Milk Bank to inform national scale-up & save preterm babies
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
METS Newsletter October 2023
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.
- 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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