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Mak and Karolinska to Continue Prioritising Sustainable Health

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Makerere University and Karolinska Institutet Sweden have embarked on undertaking strategies aimed at ensuring that sustainable health becomes a priority on the global agenda. This was revealed during a high level meeting involving Makerere University Management and a delegation from the Karolinska Institutet Sweden, held on Tuesday 6th February 2024 at the Rotary Peace Centre Board Room, Frank Kalimuzo Central Teaching Facility.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe welcomed the Vice President of Karolinska Institutet Prof. Martin Bergö and his delegation to Makerere University. Reflecting on Makerere University’s 100 year journey (1922-2022), the Vice Chancellor pointed out that the institution has been at the forefront of training human resources who have been key in the identification and finding solutions to various development challenges.

Makerere is a very collaborative university. We have collaborations within Africa of course, most of our external collaborations are in Europe and the United States. Times Higher Education (THE) considers Makerere the most collaborative university on their database,” said Professor Barnabas Nawangwe.

Adding that; “We publish jointly with a professor at another university, more than any other university in the world, 167 MOUs signed in one year and quite a number of them are very active and particularly in the College of Health Sciences.”

Professor Nawangwe also expressed the government of Uganda’s support to the Makerere University’s research agenda through its funding commitments under the Research and Innovation Fund.“When the SIDA support was due to end, I accompanied the Swedish Ambassador to go and see our Minister of Education and Sports, who is our First Lady as well, and he told her, ‘Swedish support is going to end in two years. Is the government going to take over?’ And she said, ‘yes we shall.’ For the first time, the government committed an equivalent of about $8 million dollars every year for research at Makerere University. A lot of projects have been funded. There are more than 1,250 since the project started four years that have been funded. 39% of all the grants are going to health,” shared Prof. Nawangwe.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Right) and Prof. Martin Bergö (Left) during the courtesy call prior to the meeting. Frank Kalimuzo Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Right) and Prof. Martin Bergö (Left) during the courtesy call prior to the meeting.

As Makerere University embraces the next century, Prof. Nawangwe said that partnerships with Karolinska Institutet will be leveraged to ensure that research in sustainable health takes centre stage.  “Global Health is a major issue. The Centre for Excellence for Sustainable Health, which is a collaboration between Makerere University in Uganda and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden will be central in addressing global issues.”

In this regard, the Vice Chancellor implored the researchers at Makerere and Karolinska to explore bringing more academic disciplines on board including those in agriculture, food security, gender, architecture, to mention but a few, for a holistic approach.  In the same vein, the Director of Research and Graduate Training, Prof. Edward Bbaale proposed the need to include smart energy options, climate change, nutrition as well as the environment into sustainable health. For instance, how do nutritionists contribute to sustainable health?

Prof. Tobias Alfvén, a Pediatrician and Researcher at Karolinska Institutet, and Co-Chair of the CESH Working Group, underscored the fundamental role of the longstanding 20-year relationship between the two institutions and the dedicated teams involved in facilitating this work. Reflecting on the genesis of their collaboration, he explains, “We met just a month before the pandemic hit Sweden and Uganda, and we started collaboration; everything went online, and we started developing what became the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health (CESH). Without that long-term thinking and the good team already there, we would not have achieved that.”

Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze, the Dean, Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) and Co-Chair of the Centre’s Working Group informed the University Management and the visiting delegation that sustainable health involves humans, animals, and the environment. In this regard, the CESH has embraced a multi-disciplinary approach towards research by involving students from different disciplines. She pointed out that CESH has identified students from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (studying climate change) and those from MakSPH (Environmental Health Sciences) to form research teams that will provide solutions to global health issues.

Left to Right: Prof. Umar Kakumba, Prof. Martin Bergö, Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze and Ms. Monika Berge-Thelander during a courtesy call on the DVCAA in his office. Senate Building, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Left to Right: Prof. Umar Kakumba, Prof. Martin Bergö, Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze and Ms. Monika Berge-Thelander during a courtesy call on the DVCAA in his office.

The CESH Working Group’s three-year commitment to promoting sustainable health practices was emphasized by Prof. Wanyenze who also reported a notable shift in focus toward sustainable health during sessions of the World Health Summit held last year.

“We can work together and learn from each other and we can bridge those gaps and the challenges that are leaving some of these vulnerable groups behind. It might be refugees’ issues in Uganda, it might be other disadvantaged groups within Sweden, but we can learn from one another and be able to reach out to them,” Professor Rhoda Wanyenze.

She added that; “When we are thinking about our health and wellbeing today, we should not have the health and well-being of future populations because there are many things we do today to keep ourselves happy and healthy that will affect those that are coming after us.”

Dr. Roy Mayega, an alumnus of Karolinska Institutet and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at MakSPH acknowledged Makerere University for valuing the partnership through funding research in sustainable health.  He also pointed out that the research teams were discovering new issues such as gender and climate change in the realization of sustainable health.

Left to Right: Prof. Roy Mayega, Prof. Stefan Peterson Swartling and Prof. Tobias Alfvén during the courtesy call on the DVCAA in his office. Senate Building, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Left to Right: Prof. Roy Mayega, Prof. Stefan Peterson Swartling and Prof. Tobias Alfvén during the courtesy call on the DVCAA in his office.

On behalf of Karolinska Institutet, Prof. Martin Bergö thanked the Makerere University Management for the warm reception and the commitment to sustainable health. He mentioned that this was his first visit to Uganda and Makerere University. Acknowledging the partnership between both institutions for the last 22 years, Prof. Bergö who is the current Chairman of the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health expressed delight at being part of this collaboration.

He noted that all crises, whether caused by pandemics, poverty, conflicts, or climate change, have an impact on both physical and mental health. He further noted that the link between human, animal, and plant health, known as “One health” increases the importance of collaborating and working together across borders and between different sectors of society.

Prof. Bergö nevertheless acknowledged that people are at the heart of collaborations. “However, partnerships are foremost between people”, he noted, before adding “Building equitable personal relationships and learning from one another. This is perhaps the most important objective of this visit!”

He commended CESH, whose evaluation of the first three years of operation 2021-2023 revealed that the Centre was well on its way to achieving the set objectives. CESH has to date developed four out of planned five tools for working with sustainable health, while the last one is being finalized. “The tools are being used in education and research and I am happy to learn that we are making an impact.”

Prof. Martin Bergö (Left) and Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze (Right) during the courtesy call on the DVCAA in his office. Senate Building, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Martin Bergö (Left) and Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze (Right) during the courtesy call on the DVCAA in his office.

Prof. Bergö equally commended Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe and the former President of Karolinska Institutet, Prof. Ole Petter Ottersen on co-authoring a publication defining sustainable health. Other co-authors included Rhoda Wanyenze, Tobias Alfvén, Rawlance Njejjo, Nina Viberg, Roy William Mayega, and Stefan Swartling Peterson.

“I have read it with much interest and see myself as an ambassador for spreading the concept in different contexts. I am pleased to understand that this definition is the point of departure for all activities devised and carried out by the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health” he said, adding that the Karolinska Institutet President, Annika Östman Wernerson is looking forward to visiting Makerere University this November.

During this interactive meeting, both institutions underscored the role of the library in advancing research and preservation of knowledge. The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe pointed that the Makerere University Library serves as a national reference library as well as a legal and United Nations repository. He therefore acknowledged the support received from NORAD and Sida in the professionalization of library services and making it a model library in Africa.  Prof. Bergö mentioned that libraries are the guardians of knowledge and thanked the Vice Chancellor for inviting the University Librarian to the discussion.

Makerere University Management Members who attended the meeting included: Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs)-Assoc. Prof. Umar Kakumba, Director Research and Graduate Training-Prof. Edward Bbaale, Director of Quality Assurance-Dr. Cyprian Misinde, Academic Registrar-Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi, University Librarian-Assoc. Prof. Ruth Nalumaga, Deputy University Secretary-Mr. Simon Kizito, Head of Advancement Office- Mr. Awel Uwihanganye, and Principal Public Relations Officer-Ms Ritah Namisango

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Left) and Prof. Martin Bergö (right) interact with staff from Makerere and Karolinska during the meeting. Rotary Peace Centre Board Room, Frank Kalimuzo Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Left) and Prof. Martin Bergö (right) interact with staff from Makerere and Karolinska during the meeting.

The Karolinska Institutet delegation included; Head of the International Office-Erika Dabhilkar, Co-chair of CESH-Tobias Alfvén, International Coordinator-Monika Berge-Thelander, Project Coordinator-Nina Viberg, Member of CESH Steering Committee-Stefan Peterson Swartling, and Communications Officer-Kseniya Hartvigsson.

Teams Visit the Swedish Ambassador’s residence

While hosting the two institutions, H.E. Maria Håkansson, the Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda, emphasized the significant ties between the two nations and their respective peoples as key drivers for this 22 year-old partnership.

“Collaboration between Karolinska and Makerere is still one of the most important international flagships. Which I think says a lot of what has been built and what the relations that have been creating between institutions but of course also between people. Also, we all know individually what role the university researchers play in the country’s policy development,” said Amb. Håkansson

Adam Kahsai-Rudebeck, First Secretary – Deputy Head of Cooperation Health and Social Protection at the Swedish Embassy added “We look forward to just building upon the already established relationships and initiatives that are ongoing.”

A Video Highlighting the Visit

Highlights of KI- Mak #CESH Working group Engagements in Kampala, February 2024

Photography and Video by Davidson Ndyabahika

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Makerere University Research shows challenges facing Forcibly Displaced Persons (FDPs) with Chronic Disease in Northern Uganda

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Left to Right: Dr. Esther Nanfuka Kalule, a postdoc fellow on this study; Emma Ikwara, a researcher at CHDC; PhD student Onesmus Kamacooko at CHDC and Dr. Ritah Nakanjako interacting after the colloquium.

By Agnes Namaganda

Preliminary findings from a study by Child Health and Development Centre (CHDC) -Makerere University have revealed several challenges faced by Forcibly Displaced Persons (FDPs) with chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. This study is specifically looking at FDPs in northern Uganda. Accessing food, water, medicine, clothing, toilet facilities, privacy and support is a challenge for healthy FDPs but for those with chronic diseases, these provisions may mean the difference between life and death.

According to Drs, Ritah Nakanjako and Esther Nanfuka Kalule, who are post-doc fellows at Makerere University, FDPs with chronic diseases are unable to access facilities with medicines. Speaking at the February monthly colloquium of CHDC, Dr. Nanfuka said, “Medicines and medical forms are sometimes forgotten by these patients yet some do not know the names of their medicines. For others, these medicines get finished along the way due to the abrupt movements.” These disturbances in the continuity of care affects their health and wellbeing.

Left to Right: Dr. Esther Nanfuka, Dr. Ritah Nakanjako, Dr. Godfrey Siu who is giving the presenters feedback about their presentation and Dr. Aggrey Dhabangi.
Left to Right: Dr. Esther Nanfuka, Dr. Ritah Nakanjako, Dr. Godfrey Siu who is giving the presenters feedback about their presentation and Dr. Aggrey Dhabangi.

As an example, she referred to the constant need to monitor blood pressure or blood sugar for these FDPs. “Even when facilities are available, you may not have the money to refill medicines or you may not remember the name of the medicine.” She added that the stress and trauma of this kind of situation usually exacerbates these conditions.

Speaking about the rationale for doing this research, Dr. Nakanjako said that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are largely unrecognized and inadequately addressed in humanitarian settings, something which the Red Cross calls ‘a neglected crisis’.  Yet, studies conducted among refugees and asylum seekers across the world report a high burden of NCDs. Uganda hosts over 1.5m refugees, the highest proportion in sub-Saharan Africa with the majority comeing from South Sydan.

“The objective of this study is to examine the experiences of FDPs- which will contribute to knowledge on innovative ways of chronic disease care. This will also contribute to the management of NCDs in humanitarian, low resource settings,” Dr. Nakanjako explained.

Dr. Godfrey Siu (Left) and Dr. David Kyaddondo who is the Principal Investigator of this project interacting with other members of CHDC after the CHDC monthly colloquium which takes place every last Wednesday of the month.
Dr. Godfrey Siu (Left) and Dr. David Kyaddondo who is the Principal Investigator of this project interacting with other members of CHDC after the CHDC monthly colloquium which takes place every last Wednesday of the month.

This 5-year study that started in 2022 will run till 2026 and is funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation under the Mobility-Global Medicine and Research Fund. It is a collaboration between three institutions; Makerere University, the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and the Sudan Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies in South Sudan. This research is taking place in Nyumanzi Reception Center in Adjumani district; Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement also in Adjumani district; IDP Settlements in South Sudan; and the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement in Yumbe District.

Other challenges revealed by the FDPs with chronic diseases include the fear of drinking recommended amounts of water before or during travel to manage urine and to avoid stop-overs for security reasons.

After arrival at Nyumanzi Reception Centre in Uganda, these FDPs with chronic diseases do not receive any special care. It is only those with communicable diseases like TB. Cholera or Covid19 that get special care. Other challenges include; “a limited range of drugs, maintenance of cold chains for insulin, rationed water, lack of drinking water, lack of sanitary facilities and the congestion.

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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Short Course 2024

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Some of the 22 participants that successfully completed the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) certificate course joined by course facilitators and administrators show off their certificates in July 2022 at MakSPH. Makerere University School of Public Health, New Mulago Hospital Complex, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Did you know that with just a Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) or its equivalent, along with at least 1 year of working experience in WASH, you qualify to join our Short Course in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene?

The Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health at Makerere University School of Public Health brings you yet another opportunity to enhance your skills and knowledge in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene from for the 2024 intake, scheduled to run from 20th May to 12th July 2024.

Designed to equip practicing individuals with the necessary attitudes, skills, and scientific knowledge for effective WASH management, this course is open to officers with limited training in WASH and Environmental Health Practitioners seeking continuous professional development. For more details and application instructions, please refer to the attached course poster or visit the course website at https://sph.mak.ac.ug/academics/water-sanitation-and-hygiene-wash.

Apply before Thursday, 28th March 2024 for a rewarding learning experience!

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Call for Abstracts: Annual Health Professions Education Scientific Conference

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The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Centre Mak tie) with participants at the Health Professions Education Conference held 11th to 12th May 2023 at Hotel Africana, Kampala Uganda.

The Health Professions Education and Training for Strengthening the Health System and Services in Uganda Project (HEPI-SHSSU) at Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS) is organizing the Annual Health Professions Education Scientific Conference.

Venue: Hotel Africana, Kampala, Uganda

Conference Dates: 10th, 11th and 12th April 2024

Theme: Advances in Health Professions Education:  Research, Innovations in Teaching and Learning, Quality Assurance

Sub-Themes

  1. Quality Assurance and Accreditation
  2. Health Professions Education Research
  3. E-Learning 
  4. Innovations in teaching and learning
  5. Graduate Education
  6. Simulation-based Learning

Abstracts are welcome in any of the above areas for oral presentations, mini-workshops, thematic poster sessions, and didactic sessions.

We welcome abstracts from all people involved in the education and training of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, students, health providers, and other stakeholders.

Abstract Submission:

Abstracts should be structured into:

Background, Objectives, Methods, Results, Conclusion

For Education innovations: What was the problem, What was done, Results, and Conclusion (300-word limit).

Include the details of the corresponding author, the author(s), their contacts, and Affiliation.

Send your abstract to: hepishssu@gmail.com

Deadline for Submission of abstracts: Saturday 23rd March 2024

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