On the 3rd of May 2021, Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF) in partnership with PATH Uganda, Population Action International, and the Ministry of Health organized a CSO round table dialogue to discuss strategies and share experiences on the promotion of community participation in Uganda’s Health care service delivery approach and policy framework in Kampala at Fairway hotel.

The round table dialogue was attended by 40 participants including key stakeholders from Academia, CSOs, and CBOs at grassroots, district level representatives, policymakers at the national level, and young people. The dialogue aimed at nurturing space for coordination, collaboration, sharing experience and learning from each other on what CSOs are doing to promote community participation in primary healthcare and delivery of essential and quality health care services to communities, building the capacity of CSOs on Uganda’s PHC policy framework and service delivery approach at the sub-national level and creating a platform for communities to amplify voices and share their experiences and needs with access to primary health care services.

In his remarks, Mr. Mwesigye Patrick the Team leader at UYAHF emphasized that Primary health care is for our community’s health benefits and if there is improvement in equity, service delivery, and quality, then people would have achieved PHC. It’s good to know that when the community participates in their health decisions then it’s cost effective and there is no way PHC can be separated from communities. He mentioned that he was happy to see different stakeholders with different capacities in the house and thus each and every stakeholder’s strength would be leveraged upon by the other partners dealing in PHC since each partner be bringing something unique onboard.

Panelists making their submissions during the panel discussion 

Dennis, the programs manager of UYAHF emphasized the role of Civil Society in promoting community participation to improve Uganda’s Primary Health Care framework and service delivery approach.  This has even become more urgent in the face of the COVID-19 crisis where evidence has shown that communities can play an important role in not only health promotion and disease prevention but also enhancing access and utilization of essential services at the first point of care, added Denis.

Throughout the discussion, there was agreement that with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, much emphasis is required to ensure strong and resilient health care systems especially at the PHC level that will not only contribute to recovery from COVID-19 but also deliver essential health care services and address people’s diverse health needs. Therefore with a robust and well-coordinated civil society that is actively participating and shaping the Primary Health Care Agenda, communities are guaranteed of accessing many of the essential components of PHC including Health education on prevailing health problems and the methods of preventing and controlling them; Nutritional promotion including food supply; Supply of adequate safe water and sanitation; Maternal and child health care; Immunization against major infectious diseases; Prevention and control of locally endemic diseases; Appropriate treatment of common diseases and injuries; and Provision of essential drugs.

Praise Mwesiga, a program officer at UYAHF made a brief presentation about the findings of the CSO mapping that was done to ascertain local organizations and CBOs working on PHC. In her presentation, she told members present that the mapping was not limited to the region or capacity of any organization but rather was open to every organization that was doing something on PHC. She also mentioned that according to the findings, most of the organizations that responded to the call were grassroots CBOs with some working at the district and national levels. She mentioned that the objective of the mapping was to know what organizations according to wok disaggregation were doing on PHC so that they could understand the capacity of each and then form a joint coordination mechanism to have all CSOs have one voice in advocating for an improved Primary health care system in Uganda.

Dr. Musoke from Makerere University School of Public Health in his keynote address commended UYAHF for bringing partners on board as well as giving an opportunity to young people to participate since they can take back the information to their fellow peers. He gave a definition of PHC siting the need for equity and leaving no one behind. People need to be empowered to take lead in their health. He also emphasized the critical role that community-driven health programs and key strategies like health promotion and disease prevention play in advancing improved health care systems at the community level. He commended the VHTs for having done great work as per the reports from the government and partner organization and noted that community health extension workers remain the backbone of any health care system.

The panel discussion focused on Fostering community participation to advance effective primary health care systems that can deliver quality essential health care services for all. What needs to be done and sub-national (service delivery level) and at the policy level. The panelists included Warren Blessing – Living Goods, Dr. Patrick Kagurusi– AMREF Health Africa Uganda, Mr. Emmanuel – PATH Uganda, Mr. Muzira Tonny-FOME (who represented young people), and Dr. Wangisi Jonathan – District Health Officer Mbale who represented the ministry of Health. Dr. Patrick in his remarks highlighted the need for community health education on disease prevention and the need to increase investment in reproductive maternal and child health care since these services are essential for many women children and adolescents. He called on the government to double its investment in human resources for health through increased technical capacity building and motivation. Mr. Warren from living good highlighted the importance of supporting communities to participate in shaping their health care system and called on government and CSO to introduce and support accountability platforms that will steer community participation.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Jonathan Wangisi appreciated UYAHF for organizing such an important event as well as bringing academia on board to share the facts from their research. He emphasized the need for Implementing Partners to advocate politicians at the district as a team other than in isolation because political leaders listen to big voices so this will produce stronger results in line with community engagement within a short time. He commended the team leader for UYAHF for being very innovative and mobilizing all the different stakeholders with different expertise in the field of research to share their experiences as regards community engagement in PHC. On behalf of the government, he pledged to give CSOs a conducive environment to implement health-related programs that are geared towards improving the lives of the local populations.

80% of the participants reached rated the dialogue highest in attaining the workshop’s intended objectives.

Dr.Jonathan Wangisi giving closing remarks