Week 3 – DHO Meetings, Project Ideas, and Markets of Mbale!

Week 3 was filled with informative meetings at the District Health Office. We attended an introductory orientation meeting for all newly hired health workers throughout the district of Mbale, led by Dr. Wangisi, the DHO. During the meeting, he discussed the increasing emphasis on performance in public service. For example, the World Bank is providing funding to select health facilities and 40% of this funding will serve as an incentive for performance and 60% will be used for improving the facility itself. The focus is on children under 5, deliveries, family planning, etc. He left the staff with a message to be agents of change. I also had the opportunity to attend a weekly DHO meeting where I learned how such meetings are conducted and specifically about interventions being implemented for adolescents with HIV. One of the highlights of the week was meeting with the local expert on vector control. During this meeting we learned about schistosomiasis, malaria, River Blindness, and other vector borne diseases. We also briefly discussed pesticide use. Schistosomiasis is not serious in Mbale as the prevalence of the infection is about 1%. However, this also means that there is no mass treatment available. When discussing malaria, what stood out to me was the desire to change the focus from providing medications to more preventative efforts through vector control. It was exciting to learn that River Blindness has been eradicated in the Elgon region in working with the Carter Foundation! Lastly, we met with Dr. Wangisi to discuss our project ideas and activities of interest. I was surprised and thankful that he took the time to meet with the four of us at the end of a long day and began efforts to mobilize the projects immediately. During the meeting he called and set up visits to 3 health centers for the following week. Additionally, a meeting was set up for the following day to explore data sources for our project. I was not expecting the speed at which everything was set up because it happened within our meeting time with Dr. Wangisi. I would normally expect for emails to be sent the following day and for plans to be finalized within a few days. I was grateful and excited that it was so quick! The week concluded with weekend visits with Sandra, our Ugandan friend and colleague, and a trip to a huge visiting market in the Mbale stadium. It reminded me of the Del Mar Fair back at home. But I was so glad to be experiencing this event in Mbale this summer! Looking forward to making progress on our projects in the coming weeks. -Laila
Fun fact: baby goats in Mbale know how to get home so they roam freely! To illustrate this, here is a picture of Mary and this super cute goat!