For Henry Bugembe, being a community health worker (CHW) in Sissa Village, Kajjansi Town Council involves voluntary community work like sensitizing his community about the use of mosquito nets and how to prevent and treat diarrhea in children. From the training the CHWs received in 2010 from the Ministry of Health (MoH), they can also conduct rapid diagnostic tests for malaria. With time however, the CHWs lost morale as volunteers due to lack of incentives to do their work. 

Together with Nottingam Trent University (NTU) in the United Kingdom, The School of Public Health, Makerere University (MakSPH) got funding from THE/DFID and refreshed the capacity of CHWs with incentives and training. These incentives include umbrellas, gum boots and motorcycles to enable them to move around.

Bugembe received, as an incentive, an opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom in an exchange program to see how NTU is implementing its community work through this funding there. This travel not only motivated Bugembe but his other CHWs as well to perform.

Today, while there are no statistics to the effect, health workers in the areas where this project was implemented have indicated that the cases of diarrhea and malaria received at the health facilities have significantly reduced with the intervention playing a big role in this.

Such research partnerships between MakSPH and NTU have been going on since 2012 and started with the THET/DFID grant of £5,000. Last year, the NTU-Mak partnership together with 4 other universities around the world won a European Union grant of 5,902,038 Euros. The grant is for Scaling up Packages of Interventions for Cardiovascular disease prevention (CVD) in Europe and Sub-saharan Africa (SPICES).  This grant covers 6 universities and offers scholarships to candidates with Masters’ degrees in the fields of medicine, social sciences, public health and any other health-related disciplines. 

Speaking at a morning meeting between Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) and a team from NTU on May 4th, 2018 in the office of the Dean of MakSPH, David Musoke, the lead researcher for this project said it was implemented in 4 sub-counties with 500 CHWs and the results are impressive. What is left is for the MoH to roll it out to other districts throughout the country. The NTU team included the university’s, Provost, Cillian Ryan, the Regional Partnerships Coordinator, Teresa Dymond and the Global Director, Stephen Williams.

At this meeting, MakSPH Dean, Assoc. Prof Rhoda Wanyenze, noted that the UK is more developed in care and there is a lot more these universities can learn from each other.

“The importance of partnerships is that it’s easy to pull together a consortium and respond to grants,” she pointed out, referring to the partnerships that have happened over the years with NTU.

Speaking about the SPICES partnership which is being implemented in the districts of Buikwe and Mukono through health promotion and community engagement, Ms Dymond said she’d been happy to have experienced things at the field office which she was privileged to visit for the first time.

Mr Williams on the other hand was interested in knowing if the College of Health Sciences (CHS) under which the MakSPH falls had facilities that could enable videoconferencing. Previously, the students on the exchange program have been unable to travel due to the challenge of conflicting university schedules, which challenge can be solved by videoconferencing.

The Dean informed the team that the university had a facility which is central to the college’s activities but that the proposal can be explored.

However, the major reason for presence of the NTU team in Uganda was to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Makerere University in a move that will see their partnership expand to the School of Law. 

Speaking at the signing ceremony later that at the day in his office, the excited Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, thanked MakSPH for being a flagship in these partnerships and for not being selfish in encouraging NTU to explore other research partnerships, from practical sciences to Law. 

“We are ranked 2nd in Africa as far as research is concerned. We’re the leaders in Aids research in the world, and among the leaders in malaria research. We are also among the leaders in agricultural research and our university has contributed to food security in the country. Our region is one of the most conflict prone in the region and together we can share experiences and find solutions to these issues in our regions,” the Vice Chancellor said, adding that this particular MoU signing is an exception since there is already work that is going on.

The Vice Chancellor also thanked Dr Musoke for being a good ambassador for the university.

The Provost of NTU informed the meeting that NTU had received an award for “University of the Year from the Sunday Times newspaper mostly because the university works hard to get its students international experience and job placements.”

He also noted that the most successful partnerships are built around research and student partnerships.

Under medical research, NTU has also had success in producing an artificial human body that actually looks and feels like a real one and can be used in the place of a human cadaver to teach medical students. The university also earned the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2015 for Higher and Further Education.

“This prize is the highest national honour given to universities in the UK,” Prof Ryan informed the meeting.

Present as well was the Deputy Vice Chancellor-Finance and Adminstration, Prof William Bazeyo who was the Dean of MakSPH when the school started its partnerships with NTU.

“Our collaboration with NTU started under the leadership of Prof. William Bazeyo and Dr. David Musoke has been the lead between the School and NTU. As MakSPH, we are excited that this collaboration is now expanding to the rest of the University” remarked Assoc. Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze, Dean MakSPH who succeeded Prof. Bazeyo.

Referring to the nearly 6 million Euros SPICES grant, she informed the meeting that MakSPH is already benefitting from the collaboration and has expressed interest in expanding to the disciplines of Law and Gender Studies with the latter’s Dean, Assoc Prof Sarah Ssali have been to NTU the previous day on May 3rd, 2018.

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