Friday, February 6, 2015

So, why the trip to Uganda? - The Project Details

Why?  That's what I've been asked almost daily for the past several months.

 16 mothers die in childbirth ... every day.

That's why the trip to Uganda.

As is the case in most of Sub-Saharan Africa, the health indicators are not good.  This is particularly true when it comes to the survival and health of mothers and babies during childbirth.  So, with our Rotary and medical profession partners in Uganda, we're conducting an exchange of staff, equipment, and technology.

To help improve the health status of the people of Uganda (especially in rural settings), our project will focus on 3 strategies:

  1. Enhance capacity of training institutions to increase output of appropriately-trained health workers - doctors, nurses, midwives, and provide continuing education and mentorship to improve competencies for reproductive health services among practicing health workers
  2. Recruit, fairly distribute, and retain health workers
  3. Upgrade the capacity at remote health centers to conduct training, connect to regional and national referral hospitals, and improve infrastructure with durable medical equipment and diagnostics

This is one small project of thousands that Rotarians have going on around the world every year.  Some of the projects, such as this one, are centered around the health of mothers and children, while others are focused on fighting disease, providing clean water, supporting education, growing local economies, and promoting peace.  Much of our work is funded through grants from The Rotary Foundation.

In our case, our Rotary District in Eastern Pennsylvania USA (7430) and District 9211 in East Africa (along with financial help from District 7450 in the Philadelphia area and District 7500 in New Jersey) came together to obtain funding through a Global Grant from The Rotary Foundation for a project dealing with maternal and child health.

The idea developed starting back in 2006 when Past District Governor Ron Smith from the Rotary Club of Blue Bell, met a District Governor from District 9211, while attending a training course for incoming Governors in San Diego.  They developed a friendship, identified a need, and found a way to work together on solving a problem.

The result of that friendship was bringing together staff from two medical schools - Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia and Makerere University School of Health Sciences in Kampala.  Beginning in 2014, Drexel and Makerere began an exchange of ideas, technology, and staff to find ways to reduce mortality and morbidity during and after childbirth.

One component of our grant is the formation of Volunteer Training Teams (VTT) that are engaged in a travel exchange to accomplish the project goals.  In January of last year, Ron led a VTT to Uganda.  The team included staff from Drexel.  And then in April, a VTT from Uganda (including medical staff from Makerere), led by Rotarian Deo Sekimpi of the Rotary Club of Kampala North, came to Philadelphia.

Now, we're going back for Year 2 of this 3-year project.  

Our goals are to:

  • Reduce the mortality and morbidity rate for children under the age of five
  • Reduce the maternal mortality and morbidity rate
  • Improve access to essential medical services
  • Train community health leader and health care providers for mothers and children
  • Support studies for career-minded professionals related to maternal and child health

Our objectives this year on the 3-week visit to Uganda:

  • Mentor and upgrade mother and child healthcare skills at four health centers around Kampala
  • Provide "Helping Babies Breath" and "Helping Mothers Survive" training in two health districts
  • Follow up in Year 1 computer networks and upgrade the networks
  • Provide more content on "Digital Library" servers at each of the four health centers
  • Conduct and demonstrate training of health care workers and the community using new networking capabilities
  • Maker closer connections between Makerere and the main hospital (Mulago) and the community health centers
  • Develop a regular distance learning education seminar series between the two medical schools
  • Integrate Public Health training with Maternal & Child Healthcare education
  • Integrate Makerere's medical students' rotations with the College of Computing and Informatics students

Sounds like a lot, doesn't it?  Over the coming weeks, we'll show how we are accomplishing these things.

So, today we leave.  Stay tuned!

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