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International Health Sciences University (Uganda)
International Health Sciences University is committed to improving the health of slum populations through research and community-based activities and initiatives. The University has built a network of community liaison personnel among which include: community local leaders, women representatives, cultural and religious leaders, youth representatives and community health volunteers. This network acts as a channel of communication between the University and the community in areas of health improvement and well-being through research and dialogue. With a wealth of health workers trained at the University, community programs are smoothly implemented and monitored by the graduate students. The students have played a fundamental role in making a difference in healthcare within deprived communities.
As a University we pride in our civic engagement under the following activities;
Organising Annual Medical Camps
The University annually organizes a medical camp to treat people suffering from common illnesses like malaria, cough, diarrhea which are rampant among the slum dwelling population. During the medical camps, focus is mainly put on treating mothers and children who are the most vulnerable. Not only do we treat but we educate mothers about good hygiene and sanitation practices, plus family planning. The design of the services to be offered to the community members is based on evidence from research and what the community members prioritize. We also engage into community dialogue as a means of gaining an in-depth understanding of their health needs and what can be addressed with simple and immediate interventions like the medical camp.
This keeps our presence in the community meaningful through partnerships with other health promoting institutions that promote behavioural change within the community.
Conducting nutritional assessments
We conduct nutritional assessment within schools located in the slums to assess the level of nutrition status among school children. This is relevant in informing us of possible intervention research that will meet the needs of children in slums. In this case, we work with health centres where we make referrals of seriously malnourished children or those battling with nutrition related diseases.
The University is committed to empowering underprivileged communities with basic information that is relevant in living healthy lifestyles. In this case focus goes to mothers who are presumed to be the primary care takers of homes. Many of the health education sessions organized are derived from findings of the research the University undertakes within the deprived areas. Putting into consideration that the country experiences the burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases, information giving can play a significant role in reducing the risk to getting some of the preventable diseases.
Training of community health volunteers (CHVs)
As part of the University’s social responsibility, we conduct free trainings for community health volunteers as a means of building capacity. CHVs are responsible for sensitizing communities about basic health practices like hand washing, waste disposal, infant nutrition and reminding mothers about their antenatal and postnatal care visits. In this case, they need to be equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills to enable them perform their work with an acceptable level of competency and confidence.
Church based health education to improve slum health outcomes
IHSU is starting a one year project focused on health Education of slum (Kibuli) community members. This is a follow- up of the confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child deaths project which is focused on knowledge and education enhancement about maternal and child healthcare as well as promotion of health seeking behavior which come out strongly as the major causes of deaths of mothers and children in Kibuli Parish, Makindye-Kampala.
The project which is expected to roll out in January 2014 will be aimed at increasing the knowledge of slum inhabitants through church based health education initiatives. The focus will be on community health Education through the church institutions in Kibuli Parish. Kibuli parish is one of the 21 parishes in Makindye with a population of about 33,000 people and the major portion of it is a slum. There are 20 Pentecostal churches in Kibuli that have been identified which will be involved in the project.
The project will involve training of up to 50 community volunteers from the different churches to conduct health education and health promotion activities within their churches and the general community. Aside from this, International Health Sciences University’s wealth of health workers will conduct community outreaches as well as stage educative plays or skits within the community over a period of six months. These activities will consequently help to increase the health knowledge within the community and contribute to the reduction of maternal and child mortality in Kibuli and Uganda as a whole.
Working with female sex workers
IHSU works closely with vulnerable and seldom heard groups like sex workers. These are linked to care through a collaborative approach. Through a recently concluded research, it was revealed that the industry though illegal is growing by the day and the number of HIV positive sex workers is increasing. Important to note is that sex workers are faced with social discrimination. This way they are not comfortable to seek healthcare appropriately. As a University surrounded by various pockets of sex workers, we collaborate with a community-based organization known as Touch Namuwongo that provides free HIV counseling and testing and also offers STIs treatment to this vulnerable population. Besides the treatment, we offer health talks to sex workers and these are mobilized through the pimps and the territorial heads.
Adolescent sexual and reproductive health promotion and education through drama
Annually, the University stages a locally scripted play on sexual and reproductive health issues affecting adolescents. The recently concluded one was on family planning and unwanted pregnancies. This was staged at the Uganda National Theatre for a week and was well attended by the target population. Though measurement of impact may be hard but the demand for educative drama has increased among the general public and schools lately.
More information about the University, activities, and community engagement can be explored from the research page at: http://www.ihsu.ac.ug/research-projects