As an aspiring epidemiologist, my time in Uganda has been filled with rich experiences and intense public health activities. I am currently a Master of Public Health student at San Diego State University, specializing in Epidemiology. Through the MHIRT program I have been able to collaborate with Makerere School of Public Health, Uganda MPH students to create and conduct an innovative research project in Uganda. Our research team has been collecting primary data in a rural district of Uganda called Mbale district.
Our teams’ research project is focused on tuberculosis (TB) and factors that influence patients “dropping out” from TB treatment. TB is a huge public health issue in Uganda, where resources are limited,
and pandemics overlap. Several of our study participants are co-infected with HIV/TB and are struggling with poverty. Therefore, we hope our study will inform TB healthcare providers and researchers on the stages of the TB care continuum where patients become MOST vulnerable to dropping out of TB treatment. We collected data via extracting information from hand-written government forms and conducted interviews of healthcare staff. Thus far, our investigation has compelling findings. Our team plans to publish by the end of fall 2018.
In addition to our research project, graduate students are sent to complete a field practicum in the rural districts of Uganda. As practicum students we have had the opportunity to intern under the Mbale District Health Office (DHO) and engage in public health activities at the district level. My colleagues and myself have been able to contribute to various activities across the district. Several epidemiologist activities of interest were introduced such as a cholera outbreak, country-wide Rotavirus Vaccine roll-out, dissemination of vaccines to health centers, and a measles outbreak.
Our team had first-hand experience in the cholera outbreak: visiting cholera treatment centers, interviewing cholera patients to identify contact cases and potential contaminated water sites, visiting sites of potential water contamination, and water sampling. Between working on the ground with the district cholera response team, our group were able to manually track cholera patient and confirmed contaminated water sites to generate a manual “John Snow-like” GIS mapping of the cases. Through this mapping we were able to picture the epidemiology of the disease distribution, and how the disease spread throughout the district.
The cholera outbreak was resolved in our time in Mbale; about 44 cases were confirmed and 3 confirmed contaminated water sites were permanently closed to prevent communities from accessing contaminated water. The district response team is currently focusing on community sanitation and hygiene education in efforts of outbreak prevention.
Author: Briana Thrift