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Monday, August 24, 2015

Home Dipping Mosquito nets can be done safely at home

By Esther Nakkazi

To remain effective, insecticide-treated nets must remain toxic to mosquitoes even after being washed many times.

Researchers have now found that a new treatment for the nets, called ICON Maxx, a long-lasting treatment kit for mosquito nets, makes the toxins more resistant to washing – so the nets still kill more than half of insects after 20 washes.

ICON Maxx uses a ‘dip-it-yourself’ kit for long-lasting treatment of polyester nets. It comes in a twin- sachet kit that contains a slow-release capsule suspension of lambda-cyhalothrin plus a binding agent.

But the idea of home-dipping the net remains scary as the solution containing ICON Maxx is poisonous and poses a health risk. However, researchers say it can be done safely by communities even without basic education and its cheap.

“Dipping a net with a treatment that can make it insecticidal or to remain effective against insect vectors like mosquitoes, for the life time of the net regardless of washes can easily be absolved by communities especially those living in malaria endemic countries,” said Patrick Tungu.

“It does not require technical expertise to impregnate a net. It is a simple procedure, just dipping a net into a solution containing Icon Maxx, that can be adopted by any person regardless of their education level,” said Tungu.

Tungu said communities can easily adopt this technique because its cheap. Currently, the price of the kit to treat one bed net costs USD $3.

To determine whether ICON Maxx meets the standards required by the World Health Organization Pesticide Evaluation Scheme (WHOPES), researchers from Tanzania and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK evaluated nets efficacy and wash fastness against wild, free-flying anopheline mosquitoes in Tanzania.

According to a paper published in February 2015 in the malaria journal, a part of the BioMed Central journals, ICON Maxx demonstrated superior wash resistance to the conventional lambda-cyhalothrin treated nets (CTN).

This finding raises the prospect of conventional polyester nets and other materials being made long- lastingly insecticidal through simple dipping in community or home, and thus represents a major advance over conventional pyrethroid treatments, says the paper.

The researchers evaluated two types of nets, untreated nets and treated either with the conventional lambda-cyhalothrin or ICON Maxx.

Five treatment arms were tested; unwashed ICON Maxx net, ICON Maxx net washed 20 times, polyester net conventionally treated with lambda- cyhalothrin at 15 mg/m2 and washed four times, polyester net conventionally treated with lambda-cyhalothrin at 15 mg/m2 and washed 20 times and untreated unwashed polyester net.

They looked at mosquito mortality, blood feeding inhibition and personal protection of nets.
ICON Maxx killed 75 % of Anopheline funestus, 71 % of Anopheline gambiae and 47 % of Anopheline arabiensis when unwashed and 58, 66 and 42 %, respectively, when 20 times washed.

CTN killed 52 % of Anopheline funestus, 33 % of Anopheline gambiae and 30 % of Anopheline arabiensis when washed to the cut-off threshold of four washes and 40, 40 and 36 %, respectively, when washed 20 times.

Nets treated with ICON Maxx and washed 20 times met the approval criteria set by WHOPES for Phase II trials in terms of mortality and blood-feeding inhibition.

“The biggest threat to malaria vector control now is insecticide resistance. Pyrethroid resistance is catching up with us and we need new tools,” said Dr. Ambrose Talisuna, a Senior Clinical Research Fellow, Public Health and Health Systems Research University of Oxford-KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Programme.

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Productive global health research from Africa: it takes more

By Peter Waiswa
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This Editorial is part of the special issue ‘‘Driving the Best Science to Meet Global Health Challenges’’ edited on the occasion of the 9th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health 2015. 

The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) in Basel hosts this years’ European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health under the title ‘‘Driving the best science to meet global health challenges’’.

With its long-standing African roots, Swiss TPH will certainly bring also many Africans to this conference. This offers an opportunity to reflect about Africans in the global health arena.

It is hard to be an African committed to global health. Every report comparing the world’s geographies in health morbidity and mortality (and other areas such as poverty) will end up with similar statements: ‘‘and this is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa’’. 

This notion has led to many ‘‘development agendas’’ to ‘‘help Africa’’ get out of extreme poverty and disease. More recent has been the soon to end Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now the coming so-called ‘‘Sustainable Development Goals’’ (SDGs). Common to most of these initiatives is the conclusion at the end: ‘‘progress has been made, but not enough especially in Sub-Saharan Africa’’. They often lack the word ‘‘sustainable progress’’.

I have over time been reflecting on these issues as I travel the world to attend global health meetings every now and then. I ask the question: ‘‘Can development be achieved without Africans themselves?’’

Currently, as we end the MDGs and start on the SDG era, there is a lot of debate, strategizing and maneuvering on ‘‘What needs to be done to achieve the SDGs?’’ These debates are frequently initiated and conducted in the West, often in Washington, New York, London or Geneva. 

In Africa, once in a while, they might be conducted in Cape Town or Johannesburg, because these are the ‘‘more developed worlds’’, far away from where the actual disease burden is. A few of us Africans from the high burden countries are often invited to either represent our countries or give context.

It is true that our countries are poor, but we are just a few specialized, committed, and well-educated individuals. Because we are few and so burdened, our productivity is quite limited. There are huge challenges in developing and exploiting the capacity of educated Africans.

The SDG targets are vague and also very ambitious. To achieve these targets will require that these countries invest not only in health systems but also in their scientists so that adequate capacity is developed. 

Countries will need people who can internalize evidence, policies, program performance, and design interventions that are equitably accessible, affordable, and have quality. This is a role that cannot be delegated to visiting foreign ‘‘experts’’ as this is neither sustainable nor effective.

How does one facilitate effective capacity building in developing countries in a globalized world? How does an African academic maneuver to be relevant in this ever- changing global health world? At the highest academic level, capacity building has taken various forms especially in PhD training. 

These PhD trainings have been on the increase, but have they been effective in raising the innovative capacity of countries to deal with the burden they face? The answer is, in my opinion, not much. There are several barriers including trainings being individualized (funding is to an individual), lack of research groups, absence of postdoctoral training and funding, failure to invest in infrastructure (laboratories, libraries and internet), and limited effective mobility of graduates that limits cir- culation of knowledge and exchange, among others. 

Added to this is a lack of national funding for research; instead people depend on foreign funding whose agenda and mechanisms are rarely responsive to national priorities. The result is that the scientists rarely focus on any area, or they never actually become specialized.

There are of course exceptions to the rule. In Uganda, among all funders, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) funding stood out in facilitating a more than ten-year joint PhD training in Makerere University and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. 

This has resulted in more than 45 PhD graduates in Uganda and over 500 peer- reviewed articles, most led by Ugandans (Sewankambo et al. 2015). This SIDA support for doctoral and post- doctoral program has also built academic infrastructure such as laboratories, libraries, and internet capacity. 

Another example is the Swiss TPH where training and mutual learning for change is part of mission and strategy. Its long-standing PhD programs built substantial capacity in Africa. Among the[240 PhD students who graduated in the first 15 years of this century at Swiss TPH, more than 80 came from abroad and 55 from Africa. Many of these work now in relevant academic positions in Africa (Swiss TPH 2013–2014).

However, from a broader perspective, major gaps remain. In the absence of national funding for research, it is impossible to develop postdoctoral research tracks and sustainable research groups. I call upon African countries to wake up and realize the value of investing in research and development.

Finally, another major challenge is achieving mobility and effective communication for top scientists. This isparamount in global health. Some consider mobility to be ‘‘brain circulation’’ where people share and also bring home new ideas. Effective communication is also hindered by lack of access to fast and reliable internet, and electricity. 

On the other hand, mobility is not only hindered by the lack of funding but also by the West which tends to ‘‘close borders’’ even to scientists. Getting a visa is often a ritual with many requirements and long waiting times. A traveling scientist often spends many potentially productive hours chasing for travel documents. It is also not uncommon that visa applications of African scientists get rejected, made too short and/or single entry, or even for one to be embarrassed at ports of entry into foreign lands; this is even when duly invited. 

It will be interesting to know how many African researchers dedicated to be at the Basel conference will fail with visa applications given the more restrictive regulations Swiss authorities had to adopt after an anti-immigration act got accepted in February 2014 by a tiny majority (50.3 %) of Swiss voters (Wiki- pedia 2014).

If foreign countries are serious about development and partnership in the post-MDG era, then they need to open up their countries a little more for African scientists. On the other hand, African governments must learn to fund their researchers. It is a shared responsibility.

P. Waiswa (&)
Department of Health Policy, Planning and Management, Makerere University School of Public Health, Uganda, P.O Box 7072, Kampala, Uganda
e-mail: pwaiswa@musph.ac.ug

P. Waiswa
Division of Global Health, Karolinska Institutet, Solna, Sweden
Maternal and Newborn Health Research, INDEPTH Network, Accra, Ghana

References
Swiss TPH Biennial Report (2013–2014). Accessed at http://www. swisstph.ch/resources/publications/biennial-reports/br2013-14. html, and personal communication from Nino Ku ̈nzli, Deputy Director Swiss TPH (10.6.2015)

Sewankambo N, Tumwine JK, Tomson G, Obua C, Bwanga F, Waiswa P, Katabira E, Akuffo H, Persson K, Peterson S (2015) Enabling dynamic partnerships through joint degrees between low- and high-income countries for capacity development in global health research: experience from the Karolinska Institutet/ Makerere University partnership. PLoS Med 12(2):e1001784. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001784 (eCollection 2015 Feb)

Wikipedia (2014). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_immigration_ referendum,_February_2014. Accessed 6 Jun 2015

International Federation of Medical Students Association Launched

Over 750 students from above 100 countries participated in the 64th August Meeting General Assembly of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) that took place in Ohrid, Macedonia under the theme of Migration of Health Workers.

The opening of the General Assembly was marked with the historic launch of a new online platform for IFMSA, which can be visited atwww.ifmsa.org. The United Nations Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi, stated his appreciation of the work done by IFMSA in the process of the sustainable development goals and the definition of the post-2015 agenda.

IFMSA represents 129 national member organizations (NMOs) from 121 countries around the world.

The Federation adopted a new set of Constitution and Bylaws, which guide the Federation internal work after an extensive review process. This aligns with the transition to the new structure of the Federation to better match the needs and priorities of medical students worldwide.

In regards to policy, eleven (11) new policy statements were adopted and/or renewed. Those include, but are not limited to the following topics: control of emerging infectious diseases, global road safety, environmentally sustainable healthcare facilities, hazardous and harmful use of alcohol, non communicable diseases, post-2015 future development goals, tobacco control, universal health coverage, trade and health. Those policy statements will support IFMSA global health advocacy in the highest levels. They will shortly be available online atwww.ifmsa.org.

To support medical students initiatives, the Federation has doted itself of ten (10) new programs, complementing the first set of programs adopted during March Meeting .Those programs addressed issues that are seen as important for medical students: children health and rights, communicable diseases, environment, ethics and human rights, health systems, HIV/AIDS and other STIs, human resources, mental health, sexuality and gender identity, and gender based violence.

Additionally, the meeting allowed national member organizations to elect the next Team of Officials, who will lead the Federation in the term of 2015-2016. Dr Emily Spry was elected as honorary life member. During her term as IFMSA President in 2003-2004, Dr Emily Spry increased the reach of IFMSA at the external level, providing numerous new opportunities for medical students. She led the implementation of the first IFMSA Strategic Plan, set the bases of the training division and served on the Supervising Council for four consecutive years.

IFMSA-Mexico has elected as the host of the 65th August Meeting General Assembly to take place in Cancun in August 2016.

The meeting has also allowed professional and research exchanges officers to sign over 13.000 contracts in approximately 1000 countries for the next season. IFMSA exchanges favours, intercultural understanding and allows medical students to explore health care delivery and health systems in different social and economic settings. Topics-based sessions were also held in the fields of public health, sexual and reproductive health, medical education, and human rights and peace.

Online: http://ifmsa.org/2015/08/21/5686/ --

Contact: Claudel P-Desrosiers
IFMSA Vice-President for External Affairs
Email: vpe@ifmsa.org
Phone: +1.438.831.0594

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Students Make Uganda’s Vision 2040 a Reality

By Esther Nakkazi

The last time I was at the national theatre in Kampala was at the launch of ‘Crossroads’ a book written by African women discussing society, religion, sex, the West and sports in personal, true-life stories detailing Uganda's rapidly changing culture. The book was edited by American journalist Chris Conte.

Two months later, I was back attending the 2015 Secondary schools Music Dance and Drama finals. The national theatre was full to capacity almost overflowing with students excited and anxious.

Students at the 2015 Music Dance and Drama finals
My mind raced back to my secondary school days. I was more into sports and books but I did enjoy this music festival very much. It showed creativity, talent, patriotism, as well, it was educative and very entertaining.

It was sponsored by UNFPA-Uganda in partnership with the National Planning Authority (NPA) and the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology, and Sports.

In order of the best of the 2015 Secondary schools Music Dance and Drama finals were; Budo Senior Secondary school, Sam Iga Memorial College, Mackay Memorial college, Trinity College Nabbingo, Lubiri Senior Secondary School, Mengo Senior School and others.

But in all 42 schools participated and only three of these were private schools namely; Budo S.S, Seroma Christian High school, and Owobusobozi Bisaka Itambiro Modern Secondary School.

Some of the reasons given for the thousands of others not to be part of this great show was the high costs involved for the schools to participate and students not being interested.

So I kept wondering how schools that charge exorbitant school fees could also give such an excuse when we had some schools that needed to travel for more than 8 hours to Kampala show up or how a student can say they are not interested. The few that were here today, for the national finals were all winners in their own right having beat others at the district and regional level.

To participate, the schools had to let us understand the theme;  'Vision 2040: Harnessing Young People’s Potential for Uganda's Socio-Economic Transformation',  through original and creative African compositions in poems, folk songs, drama and creative dances.

As you know, President Yoweri Museveni’s long-term plan is to make Uganda an upper middle-income country by 2040. So first, let us know why students have to be involved in understanding this theme if it is to even happen.

About half of Uganda’s population of 37 million is younger than 15 years. 78% Ugandans are below 28 years, 52% are less than 19 years. So Uganda is a real young nation.

Meanwhile, for every 1 job on the Ugandan market, there is 1,000 youth vying for it. So harnessing the music and dance talents is key to having the youth create their own jobs in future.

In most of the items performed, ‘teenage pregnancy’ stood out. Kamuli Secondary School’s play about alcoholism, teenage pregnancy and early school drop out drove the message home and hopefully, it sank.

“If a girl gets pregnant today it means that she will drop out of school. So she will not be able to attain her dreams. As a country we shall have lost a very important resource,” said Ms. Esperance Fundira, the UNFPA country representative.

But there is more to that. Being a young girl, her body is not yet ready to go through the trauma of childbearing; chances are that she will get complications during childbirth, she added.

She advised the young people to make smart choices and seek for services and information on sexual and reproductive health.

“You as the young person who, you have the power to take full responsibility for your life. You have the power to demand from parents, teachers, policymakers, the community that you are treated as a vital asset that you are,” Ms. Fundira emphasised.

This made me think that the students particularly understood that Uganda would never achieve Vision 2040 nor become a middle-income country if this vice is not addressed.

Dr. Kisamba Mugerwa, Uganda’s chief planner said to achieve Vision 2040, he had stipulated that every Ugandan woman should produce at least 4 children but he was advised by economists that it should go down to only 2.

I think in this Dr. Kisamba faces a tough task, given that the fertility rate is at 6.9 children per Uganda woman, the world’s second highest in the world.

Hopefully, events like the Secondary schools Music Dance and Drama competition will enable him to achieve this sooner for Vision 2040 should not only be a vision but a reality.
Mackay Memorial college performing at the National Theatre, Kampala  


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Media Training about Nutrition in Uganda

Press statement from the Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU) on the Reporters Nutrition training held on the 12th of August 2015 and sponsored by the USAID’s Production for Improved Nutrition Project (PIN) and implemented by Reco Industries Limited.

To educate the media on the importance of covering under-nutrition, the USAID’s Production for Improved Nutrition Project (PIN) which is implemented by Reco Industries Limited sponsored an Editors’ breakfast on 4th August and a reporters training on the 12th of August 2015.

The Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU) facilitated both events. Find the report for this event on the HEJNU website http://hejnu.ug/conferences/editors-and-reporters-training-workshop-nutrition

The keynote address was made by Dr Elizabeth Madraa, the Fortification/Policy Adviser at Strengthening Partnerships, Results and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) Uganda. Dr Madraa urged the media to get the facts and educate the nation about nutrition. She said malnutrition affects children under the age of 5 where growth is fast, beyond which age, some of the nutrition interventions cannot work.

She said fortified foods are crucial in addressing the problem of malnutrition, which remains a big burden in Uganda and urged the Government to assist middle and small scale farmers to fortify their products. Dr Madraa explained that while fortification is one of the most cost effective and sustainable approaches to addressing micronutrient malnutrition, it should be implemented alongside other strategies including bio-fortification and supplementation.

“Consumption of fortified foods is meant to improve nutritional status and to decrease the degree of malnutrition and prevent micronutrient deficiencies,” said Dr Madraa.

Brian Rwabwogo, the Chief of Party, USAID/Uganda PIN project said the media is a key player in educating people about nutrition. He said the project is supporting school gardens and child rights groups to empower the next generation of Ugandans.

Alex Kisembo, Marketing and Sales Director at Reco Industries, said some of the foods they fortify include corn soya blend and fortified maize, which are rich in essential minerals and vitamins such as iron, Vitamin B1, Folic acid, Zinc and Biotin.

“Nutrition is an essential part of leading a healthy life. We should also strive to ensure that all individuals and families across the country have access to the appropriate nutritional choices,” said Mr Kisembo.

RECO Industries Ltd, an agro-processing company has operations in Kampala and Kasese, but works with farmer groups across the country.

Brenda Shenute Namugumya, Senior Technical Officer-Nutrition from Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (FANTA II) project said households have made strides in overcoming under nutrition by having kitchen gardens.

She urged people to balance between selling food to generate income and to feed properly to remain healthy. Uganda, although considered a food basket in the East African region has the highest number of stunted children. She said 54% (one in two) Uganda’s adult population was stunted in childhood.

Below are statistics and facts on under-nutrition and maternal nutrition in Uganda:

  • Malnutrition occurs even within the wealthy households 
  • 54% (one in two) Uganda’s adult population was stunted in childhood 
  • 12% of women in reproductive age are too thin (BMI <18.5 kg/m2) 
  • 23 % women of reproductive age have anaemia (<12.0g/dl) 
  • Three in ten pregnant women have anaemia 
  • 438 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births 
  • Western and Southwestern have highest number of stunted children; 9-24 months most affected by stunting 
  • Uganda has the highest number of stunted children in the East African region 
  • Malnutrition and stunting is transferred from generation to generation if no intervention is done 
  • At least 98% Ugandan households use iodised salt 
  • The commonest micronutrient deficiencies in Uganda are ; Iron, Vitamin A and Zinc deficiency as well as Iodine deficiency disorders 
  • Ready to Use Therapeutics foods (RUTFs) are administered for FREE at all health facilities. Administering of RUTFs is 6 weeks – 3 months after which, complimentary food should be administered 
  • Therapeutic foods can only be prescribed in a health facility so they are not available on the open market; RUTFs are effectively a drug and should not be used by healthy people 
  • The ‘F’ Logo on packaging shows that the food is fortified. It is for purposes of educating the population about the product. 
  • All wheat producers in Uganda fortify mandatorily while for Maize and oil only producers of certain quantities have to fortify. 
  • The level of Vitamin A deficiency is 36% in Uganda but all expecting mothers attending antenatal clinics and get iron supplements. 
  • RECO Industries Ltd has 30 years of experience in making RUTFs and they have a competitive edge over the other companies. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Shocking statistics and facts on undernutrition and maternal nutrition in Uganda

By Esther Nakkazi

I am attending a media training workshop on nutrition sponsored by the USAID funded Production for Improved Nutrition project -Reco Industries Limited. These are the shocking statistics and facts on undernutrition and maternal nutrition in Uganda.
Find the report for this workshop on the Health Journalists Network in Uganda website http://hejnu.ug/conferences/editors-and-reporters-training-workshop-nutrition
  • Malnutrition occurs even within the wealthy households
  • 54% (one in two) Uganda’s adult population was stunted in childhood
  • 12% of women in reproductive age are too thin (BMI <18.5 kg/m2)
  • 23 % women of reproductive age have anaemia (<12.0g/dl)
  • Three in ten pregnant women have anaemia
  • 438 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births
  • Western and Southwestern have highest number of stunted children; 9-24 months most affected by stunting
  • Uganda has the highest number of stunted children in the East African region
  • Malnutrition and stunting is transferred from generation to generation if no intervention is done
  • At least 98% Ugandan households use iodised salt
  • The commonest micronutrient deficiencies in Uganda are ; Iron, Vitamin A and Zinc deficiency as well as Iodine deficiency disorders
Therapeutic foods given to severely malnourished children-distributed by RECO Industries 

Kenya disregards Catholic bishops' call to boycott polio campaign

By Esther Nakkazi

If the Kenya polio vaccination programme was not successful, one of the strategies was to appeal to the Vatican and ask the Pope to issue a support statement.

The aim would be to alert him on the fact that polio in Kenya is polio all over the world, in other wards it can spread everywhere. Yet immunisation is evidence-based, cost-effective and a safe intervention.

They also a strategy to appeal to Rotary International, which has made great contributions towards the eradication of this preventable disease.

So thank God, Kenyans did not heed to the Roman Catholic bishops call to boycott the week long polio vaccination campaign that started on August 1st 2015.

Dr Nicholas Muraguri the director of Medical Services reportedly said that by the third day of the immunisation campaign, the target was surpassed with about 4 million children immunised across the country against the targeted 3.6 million. Overall 6 million will be immunised.

Kenya had the last Polio outbreak in 2013 with 14 cases and two deaths. East African has porous borders, which means a polio case in Kenya will not only be their problem but for East Africa and the entire world.

The country is also a hub for refugees, which makes the population vulnerable and hence a need for high immunisation coverage to boost herd immunity.

Although Polio can be prevented by vaccination it cannot be cured, it is irreversible, highly infectious, attacks the nervous system causing paralysis and mainly affects children under age 5.

Shortly before the campaign commencement, the Catholic bishops called for a boycott unless the vaccines were tested at a certain laboratory for ‘safety’ although regulations require the one approved by World Health Organisation. The manufacturer ignored their calls for more tests and the government did not back them up.

Of course this will have long term effects on uptake of vaccines in Kenya. But it also plays out exactly the way it happened in Nigeria, which only on July 24, 2015, celebrated the successful interruption of the polio virus. If no new cases are recorded by 2017 it would have achieved polio eradication.

In Nigeria, the religious, community and academia leaders said the vaccine was dangerous and raised a false alarm. The community responded. The voiceless children became victims of their parents wrong choice. Health workers were tragically murdered while going from house to house to immunise children.

Now, the Kenyans can exchange notes with the Nigerians. But the polio eradication team of Kenya should also sit and review their advocacy strategies and engagement process with stakeholders.

If the Government has been dealing with the religious leaders forever, why are they losing a key partner at this point in time? The Catholic bishops are a key make-up they own and run catholic mission hospitals and schools. If they fall out the faithfuls might follow suit.

ends

Monday, August 10, 2015

An inside look at some of the challenges of covering reproductive health in Uganda

In the area of sexual and reproductive health, the Ugandan media coverage is centred on maternal health issues, according to research.

A study provisionally titled ‘A qualitative analysis of Ugandan media coverage of women’s reproductive health’ found that the majority of the articles covered by four print media houses in the month of May addressed pregnancy and childbirth, whereas infertility and abortion were discussed considerably less.

It also found that of the articles where the authors’ gender could be identified, more than half (56 per cent) were written by men. “This finding is remarkable, since there are more female journalists covering health exclusively,” said Esther Nakkazi, President of the Health Journalists Network (HEJNU). However, only 38 per cent of the articles were written by women. Six per cent of the articles were written by men and women together.

The study was conducted in the months of May-July 2015 by a multidisciplinary team; consisting of media professionals of the Health Journalist Network in Uganda (HEJNU) and academia from the Athena Institute of the VU University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The team is in the process of analysing over 200 articles on women’s reproductive health issues from four local newspapers published between 1 May and 31 May 2015 and 19 in-depth interviews with journalists from various local broadcast and print media. Through these, the study explores how Ugandan media frames women’s reproductive health issues and what factors influence journalists’ frame-building.

“It appears that media houses lack the funds to facilitate journalists to go upcountry in pursuit of a story. This not only means that stories are left untold, but also invites NGOs to facilitate transport and accommodation in return for a story about their projects. This poses serious limitations to the journalist’s objectivity,” said Rosanne Anholt, the lead researcher in the study, which she carried out as part of her Master’s degree.

“In playing the role of informer, watchdog, and advocate, the media could play a significant role in improving women’s reproductive health outcomes in Uganda, but in doing so, journalists clearly face considerable challenges,” she continued.

Health stories are under-prioritised within Uganda’s media houses. “It appears that preference is given to political or business stories, which means that health stories may be dropped at any time. Coupled with insufficient pay and high work pressure causes journalists to use their profession as a stepping stone for other, better paying jobs, such as with an international NGO,” she said.

Nakkazi said that although health does not receive priority in the media, there has been improvement over the years. “For instance, there are some media houses that have a health pull-out every week and there are radio stations that increasingly air programmes that aim to improve health awareness among the public,” she explained.

The study also found that New Vision, Uganda’s leading daily newspaper, was the publication with the highest number of articles on women’s reproductive health per edition with an average of 2.7 articles.

As a runner-up, Daily Monitor, the leading independent daily, averages 2.2 articles on women’s reproductive health per edition. The ratios for Red Pepper (daily tabloid) and The Observer (independent tri-weekly) were considerably lower. They averaged 1.3 and 1.1 articles per edition respectively.

Nakkazi, said there has been tremendous improvement in the coverage of sexual and reproductive health by the Ugandan media. She said this will help inform policy, public attitudes and hopefully improve budget allocation for these issues.

The preliminary findings of the study were presented on Wednesday 22 July 2015 to a group of 15 journalists from various local broadcast and print media during a dissemination seminar held in Ntinda, Kampala at the HEJNU offices.

The seminar was attended by guest of honour Dr Eleanor Nakintu, affiliated with Nsambya Hospital, Women’s Health Initiative Uganda, and Uganda Martyrs University. She emphasised the wide range of challenges women face in seeking care, reaching care, and receiving adequate care.

The research team included Rosanne Anholt, a master student of international public health under supervision of Elsbet Lodenstein, a PhD candidate at the Athena Institute at the VU University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Esther Nakkazi director and founder of the Health Journalist Network in Uganda (HEJNU) and a freelance science journalist; and Evelyn Lirri, a freelance journalist affiliated with HEJNU.