Written by Isabella Chambers, Bristol University Medical Student undertaking research with USHAPE as part of her intercalated degree in Global Health
I am writing this to you from Bwindi Community Hospital, where I am undertaking research for my dissertation in Global Health. Working with Dr Leo and Dr Ceri on the ground in Uganda and supported by the USHAPE team both here and at home in the UK, I am trying to find out what the Village Health Team workers in the Bwindi area believe to be barriers and facilitators to engaging men in Family Planning.
Village Health Team workers (VHTS) are volunteer and elected community health workers that disseminate health messages to the community and are particularly effective in reaching rural populations. There are approximately 500 VHTs and they are supported by USHAPE who gives them training so they are able to effectively circulate family planning education to the communities.
We held an event where we invited 50 VHTs to come and have a refresher family planning course in a church in Kanyashande, which was very kindly organised by Haeven. Dr Leo and I, along with several VHTs, arrived in an ambulance to the small church. An impressive 47 VHTs attended and were all very keen to be there.
During the event, Ingrid and Diana, two of the hospital nurses put posters on the walls and started to write the schedule of the day. They then proceeded to do a training course for the VHTs, with the aid of a flipchart with some clear pictures that demonstrated each method of family planning. The VHTs were eager to learn with notebooks and pens and were asking questions.
In the meantime, Davis, a translator and I held 3 focus groups of around 10 people each, where we asked open questions on the topic of male involvement in family planning. We held these outside the church on some benches in the sun. As these were in Rukiga, I will not know exactly what was said until we get them transcribed but I can tell that the VHTs were enthusiastic. Despite, the language barrier they were all very friendly to me and made me feel welcome.
In the middle of the day, all 47 VHTs and the volunteers all enjoyed a donut and a soda. We then went back inside the church and the VHTs had the opportunity to ask anonymous questions that were placed in a hat and answered by the nurses in Rukiga. The day finished around 3 and overall I believe it was a huge success and I enjoyed it very much. Really looking forward to the next two we are hosting over the next two weeks!
Isabella went on to successfully submit a poster presentation to the RCGP Annual Conference 2017 in Liverpool showcasing the outcomes of her research. You can see her poster in full below: