New Vision (Kampala)

28 January 2013

Uganda: Adopt Good Behaviour to Beat Our Health Burden

opinion

TODAY, not a day passes by without a mother or a child passing away to a curable disease.

This is very sad and with all the right 'noise' we are making, we should surely expect more positive change, where people are embracing the positive living lifestyle, where mothers are living to raise their children, where families are thriving because of good health.

There is need to focus our health interventions to impact lives with positive change. We need to focus on the most effective positive health behaviours and reinforce them and strengthen them.

Today in Uganda, many people are aware what needs to be done to achieve better health, in fact they are so much interested that they try them for example they take their children for immunisation, testing for HIV.

However majority lose interest and don't even adopt these positive behaviours in the long run, in essence this is what we want to achieve long term.

Our health interventions should aim to ensure that people become concerned about the need for change, become convinced that the change is in their best interests or will benefit them more than cost them, organise a plan of action that they are committed to implementing and take the actions that are necessary to make the change and sustain the behaviour change.

Thus focusing on adoption of behaviours will go a long way to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the general health responses.

According to various data sources, the health status of Ugandans has seen limited improvement over the years. We continue to bear a heavy burden of HIV with an estimated 1.2 million persons living with HIV for instance.

Our HIV prevalence has increased from 6.8% to 7.2% as shown in the 2011 AIDS Indicator survey. Our population growth is ever increasing meaning more HIV infections are to rise too.

We need to focus on sustaining behaviour change until those positive behaviours such as consistent condom use is part of our lifestyle thus sustained health impact. History has taught us that improving the health of a population is a critical piece for any poverty reduction and economic growth strategy. Adopting positive health lifestyle is key.

As health professionals who help people maintain positive health behaviours, supporting them embrace such a lifestyle is vital. There is poor access to health services across the country, with only about half of the population living within 5km of a health facility according to Ministry of Health surveys.

Today, many Ugandans can afford to go to a private health facility for a paid service thus a clear need to address the private public partnership approach of meeting their health needs with wide variations.

Clearly, health status across Uganda is growing and there is a clear need for private public programmes that can make measurable and sustainable improvements in this area.

Let's continue strengthening the capacity of our health system so as to maintain a vibrant system that empowers local communities to improve their own health in Uganda. By doing this, we will make a measurable impact on life expectancy among mothers and children especially.

There is need to create partnerships that enhance the ability of village health teams, peer educators and their communities to improve their own health. Let's continuously build their capacity in giving comprehensive information on life saving behaviours so as to impact on the lives of everyone in communities.

By promoting health and preventing diseases we achieve sustained development which is the ultimate measure of good health.

Writer is the communications manager, PACE

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