Public Health Professionals Commit to Focus more on One Health
Over the past decade, improvement in health indicators in Uganda has been realized; however, progress toward attainment of the health-related MDGs remains unsatisfactory. Inequities and social disparities exist across the country. The major determinants for these inequities include socio-economic status, varying literacy levels, health related knowledge and behavior, housing conditions, access to sanitation and safe water, cultural beliefs, and access to quality health services. Further, in the recent past, we have seen emerging infections like avian influenza (H5N1), swine flu (H1N1), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and re-emerging onesÂ such as Ebola, Marburg, Yellow Fever, Plaque, Anthrax, Meningococcal meningitis and Polio. There are epidemiological, demographic and nutritional transitions that are socio-economic determinants of both communicable and non communicable diseases. Prevention of both communicable and non-communicable diseases, early detection of health risks, risk communication, planning and management of health services, research and surveillance form the foundation of public health practice.
Makerere University College of Health Sciences School of Public Health has trained public health professionals for over ten years now, but there is limited networking among them. The Ministry of Health together with partners have strengthened the health system to respond to emerging and re-emerging challenges; however there are inherent weaknesses which could be addressed by the contribution of public health professionals. Some unanswered questions include; Human resource challenges; where are the trained professionals, what are the needs, what is the critical mass required and where should health training institutions focus their energies most? Field Epidemiology and Public Health capacities; in the era of emerging and re-emerging diseases and health challenges plaguing different parts of the country including cross-boundary health emergencies, are the health professionals and the health system adequately prepared to tackle these challenges? Recent research evidence has brought to light effective ways of increasing access to health care such as use of transport vouchers for maternal health care and safe medical male circumcision for reduction of the HIV/AIDS epidemic; however where is the health financing to make such resources more readily accessible? How can we design our health systems to meet the needs of today and the future?
During a two-day symposium organised for MakSPH alumni at Hotel Africana, 11th-12th March 2011, the importance of public health professionals and further training was re-echoed by the representative of the World Health Organization Country office in Uganda. Officials from the Ministry of Health who included Dr. Robert Basaaza, a Senior Policy Analyst in the Planning Division and Dr. Kenya Mugisha, the Director General of Health Services, shared their plans of engaging academic institutions in planning for health and research and recognized MakSPH as an existing partner to the Ministry, in policy formulation and pledged to provide dialogue for recognition of the public health professionals in Uganda. Discussions also focused on the need to more widely disseminate and publish success stories of what works in the field.
One Health, the interface between animal, human and the environment for disease risks such as zonooses like anthrax were discussed and the alumni committed to contributing to its policy formulation.