Promoting Health, Preventing Disease, and Improving Care for All
Updated: Apr 8, 2020
I spent this past summer in Uganda with Empower Through Health (ETH) where I not only completed my graduate practicum requirements, but also gained invaluable experience in global health and as a researcher. I didn't know that my short time as an intern would turn into a lifelong commitment with ETH and the people they serve, but it certainly has.
1. Ugandans and the ETH family are extremely welcoming people who always made me feel included, loved, and safe every step of the way. I could have gone anywhere in the world, but I was so lucky to find an opportunity to work and travel in Uganda - named the friendliest country on the globe (BBC, 2017).
2. Human beings are incredibly resilient. Even in tough conditions where there is inadequate drinking water and sanitation, no electricity, no shoes, bikes with no tires, and limited infrastructure – everything managed to get done and with a smile.
3. Healthcare is a privilege. I inherently believe in the notion and value of healthcare as a human right. In fact, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and World Health Organization standards, it is every human being’s right to enjoy a state of complete mental, physical, and social wellbeing on this planet, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic, religious, or ethnic background. However, health is a right that is unequally distributed throughout the world. I have witnessed and experienced that the establishment of Mpunde Health Center has afforded many individuals, children, and families a chance at life by offering affordable, accessible, and quality healthcare and prevention services. Prior to the health center being built, pregnant women had to walk up to 18 kilometers, often alone, in the stagnant heat to receive care and deliver their children. Mpunde Health Center now provides care for 70,000 people in over 54 villages, directly impacting the health of mothers and children.
4. Women and children are the foundation of society. This rings true throughout the villages and Uganda. Women work incredibly hard. They are wives, mothers, caretakers, chefs, gardeners, and the backbone of their communities. They are the last to go to bed and the first to wake. My words will never do these women justice for all they endure. Despite economic and social change throughout the country, domestic violence and assault remain a prevalent issue for women in Uganda. Our maternal and child health research includes how ETH and local governments can improve mortality and morbidity for women and children by addressing the root causes that include, but are not limited to: access to basic, quality, affordable healthcare, family planning, education, poverty, women empowerment, and gender equality.
More on the Maternal & Child Health Research Project:
The purpose of our research project is to identify factors affecting maternal and child health service utilization and gain a better understanding of the community’s needs and access to healthcare services. The study used a cross-sectional design. Pretested semi-structured questionnaires were administered by interviewers and translators to 417 women from a rural community in the Buyende District, eastern Uganda. Four focus group discussions involving 6–8 women/men each were conducted to identify factors affecting service utilization and community perception of Mpunde Health Center.
Our team consisting of ETH researchers and Saint Louis University Masters of Public Health students are in the active process of analyzing both the qualitative and quantitative data. We plan to disseminate the knowledge gathered from the women and community to provide baseline data for this region of Uganda. With the exception of the three SLU MPH interns, this research study was entirely carried out by Ugandans who are invested in the mission. The MCH research team is highly dedicated, motivated, and committed to seeing improvement in these communities.
5. Foreign volunteers often get all the glory, but the local staff are the real heroes. The ETH-U team is comprised of local Ugandans who collaborate with and bring to the table the communities they serve at every level. Aminah, Eunice, and Zubaida make up the clinical staff of the health center. These women work around the clock to deliver babies and attend to emergencies in the community. Not to mention the ETH-U staff who are on the ground in Iganga and Mpunde making all of this possible. It was an absolute privilege to work and learn alongside these incredible humans.
Global health is more than just treating diseases - it also means collaborating, training, and mobilizing community members, funding new research on prevention, treatment, and innovations, and building resilient and sustainable health systems that provide equitable access to quality care. And that is exactly what ETH is doing. I think it is important for Americans to know that supporting global health and development not only helps people and communities in low - and middle - income countries become more self-sufficient, but also effectively prevents the spread of diseases, ultimately protecting the health of Americans. We are inextricably connected.
I have continued to work and collaborate with ETH post-internship to further their efforts and mission in community collaboration, innovation, and research to directly impact some of the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, and impoverished communities in the world. I am not volunteering my time and effort because of a simple addition to my resume, but because the work ETH is doing is lifesaving and crucial for these communities to survive.
Thank you for reading!
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions, interests in becoming involved with ETH, or would like to receive more information on the ETH MCH research project.
Saint Louis University, College of Public Health and Social Justice
MPH Maternal & Child Health and Global Health Candidate, 2020