Health System Research in Rural Uganda: Perceptions from Local Leaders

This summer, I will spend 10 weeks in Mbarara Uganda working on a project with the University of Wisconsin Global Health Institute (GHI) and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST). Here’s a little bit about what I plan to achieve there and why.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Millennium Development Goals (MDG) strive to improve public health by advancing social and economic conditions in the world’s most resource-limited settings. To achieve this goal, the WHO calls for strengthening of health systems and promoting interventions that focus on effective, efficient, and fair policies.1 Monitoring and evaluating the flow of information from policymakers to health workers and the impact these communication channels have on policy and health practice will reveal strengths and vulnerabilities in the current system. Participation and endorsement from local policymakers to develop health improvement programs will ensure that future projects align with the objectives of local stakeholders.2

While in the field, my goal is to perform a health system analysis designed to describe what health data is captured locally, how it is used to inform policy decisions, and where communication strengths and weakness lie between policymakers, healthcare workers and village residents. I will conducted this research in Sheema and Mbarara districts in Western Uganda (population 215,000 and 460,00 respectively) located approximately 300 km southwest of Kampala.

This analysis lays the groundwork for future interventions planned by the UW GHI and MUST. Within the next year, we plan to test whether providing real-time, aggregated surveillance data via mobile phone technology (mHealth) on pregnancy and related complications to policymakers will influence the allocation of resources to their constituencies. Phase 1 initiation begins May 20 and is planned to last through mid-July.

  1. World Health Organization: Maternal Mortality Fact Sheet May 2012. accessed July 12, 2012.
  2. Zikusooka CM, Loewenson R, Tumwine M, et al. (2010) Equity Watch: Assessing Progress towards Equity in Health, Uganda 2011, EQUINET, Kampala and Harare.
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