If our work in Uganda over the last few years has taught us anything, it’s that addressing the symptoms of ill health (through direct healthcare provision) is never going to solve the problems of ill health in Uganda.
One of the key challenges we faced at the clinic in Kamwenge was that people would present at the clinic for the same reason, time and time again. Many of these conditions were completely preventable, if people were able to change their behaviour and use mosquito nets, utilise good sanitation/hygiene practices, boil water, etc. This is why we established our community health program – to prevent the sicknesses from occurring in the first place.
Working with the Village Health Advisers (ABs), MH created a strategy to raise health literacy and assist households to learn more about the sicknesses that ravage their communities, and how to prevent them. Realising that many rural Ugandans, especially women, aren’t able to read or write well, we developed a series of pictorial health sheets. Using simple, hand drawn images, these sheets explain various health issues, including prevention strategies and associated necessary behaviour changes. The ABs teach these messages to groups of villagers, to school children, to anyone who will listen.
There have been many encouraging stories of change (Alex’s story/Turyaguma’s story), though many of the behaviours that lead to ill health are entrenched and difficult to overcome. We know that there is no silver bullet to improving health outcomes in rural Uganda. And we also know that it will require both curative and preventative measures to make any long-lasting impact. But as the illustrated health sheets demonstrate, sometimes it’s the simplest of ideas that have the most impact.