Dr. Diana Nambatya Nsubuga, Uganda Deputy Country Director, Community Health Partnerships
With 72% of Uganda’s population living far from health centers, bringing health care to the doorsteps of families through strong community health programs is vital to improving the country’s health outcomes. Leaders in Uganda’s health and political sectors have long recognized this, in 2001 creating Village Health Teams (VHTs) as a cadre of community health workers to empower communities to participate and improve their own health services at the community and household level. However, health inequities still persist throughout the country, sparking Members of Parliament (MPs) to look for solutions to strengthen access to primary health care.
In February, Living Goods hosted a meeting with Dr. Michael Bukenya, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Health Committee, along with other MPs on the committee to discuss the work of community health workers including VHTs their contribution to expanding primary health care services. Following the meeting, Dr. Bukenya and his colleagues requested a field visit to see VHTs in action and their health impact firsthand.
Living Goods organized a field visit on February 25 for Dr. Bukenya and his colleagues on the Parliamentary Health Committee in the Kawempe division of Kampala. During the visit, the MPs observed the support Living Goods has been providing to VHTs to increase their impact in the communities, including monthly trainings and equipping VHTs with smartphones to help them diagnose and treat common yet deadly illnesses at people’s doorsteps. They also observed the challenging environments many VHTs encounter when visiting patients, highlighting their determination and resilience to create positive health outcomes in their communities
One community health worker, Rehema Nabulya, a VHT member in Tula Kawempe, told the visiting MPs that it’s not easy to go house-to-house for health visits, “[The] Government should facilitate us with small fee not only to motivate us but also to enable us to take care of our families,” she said.
At the end of the visit, Dr. Bukenya was in agreement and said he would advocate with his fellow MPs to allocate additional resources to VHTs to improve the services they provide to communities. “Our committee recognizes the great contribution by the VHTs to primary health care. We also recognize that primary health care is a key factor to attaining universal health coverage,” he told the New Vision newspaper.
Following the visit to VHTs and meetings with Living Goods, Dr. Bukenya and the Parliamentary Health Committee reiterated their commitment to putting a motion on the floor of parliament in support of Universal Health Coverage. Beyond advocating for increased support for VHTs, the Parliamentary Health Committee recently advanced a motion seeking approval for Dr. Bukenya to proceed in preparing a National Health Insurance Bill with the technical support of Living Goods. This bill will help families avoid financial risks resulting from high out-of-pocket expenses due to sickness. With the strong political leadership from Parliamentary Health Committee, Uganda is making substantial progress in reducing barriers to care and delivering health for all.