On September 16, 2021, Uganda Youth and Adolescent Health Forum (UYAHF) conducted a capacity-building training for Health Workers in Butaleja District on communication and counseling skills as well as the provision of quality Sexual and Reproductive Health services.

The training brought together 11 health workers representative of 11 health facilities across the district, including nurses, and midwives as well as senior medical officers.

Mrs. Musumbachai Esther, the Acting District Health Officer (ADHO), stated at the start of the training that the training is timely because many adolescents avoid health facilities due to the unfriendly nature of some health workers.

If you ask most adolescents why they don’t go to health facilities for services, they will tell you boldly that the health workers are harsh and unfriendly to them,” Esther added. She attributes this to a lack of targeted training for health workers in dealing with young people.

It is unfortunate that many of the district’s training focuses on the medical aspect rather than socialization, particularly how to deal with different types of patients. As a result, many of these health workers lack communication skills and are unable to deal with diverse groups of people. They treat all patients equally, regardless of age,” Musumbacahi said.

The ADHO believes that with such specialized training provided to health workers, many young people will flock to the health facilities for SRHR services and information. During the training, Sr. Alupo Deborah, one of the facilitators, told the health workers how essential effective communication is when dealing with young people.

How you interact with mature people should be different from how you interact with young people.” Begin by being welcoming, simple, and giving them time despite your busy schedule. As a result, they will open up to you and always want to come and talk to you if there is a problem,” Sr. Deborah said.

She urged health workers to respect and value young people’s privacy and exercise patience when interacting with them. Another Facilitator. Sr. Lillian Enwaku, the Mbale district SGBV focal person who led the counselling session during the training, pointed out the need to value confidentiality when speaking with adolescents about sexual and reproductive health issues.

These young people require safe spaces; remove them from the crowd. Confidentiality is essential in any counseling session, and you should make an effort to listen to their concerns,” said Sr. Lillian.

During the training, the health workers agreed to leverage ANC and immunization visits to share SRHR information and services with the young mothers. They also committed to using effective communication tools when dealing with young people who visit health facilities as a way to encourage them to seek help and information and to better understand their concerns.

The health workers proposed that more capacity-building training for health workers be provided, and that focal persons be identified and sent to health facilities on specific days to speak with adolescents. The one-day training also created a platform for health workers to discuss and disseminate the Adolescent Health Policy Guidelines and Service Standards, create a space to share experiences, learn, and dialogue on strategies to improve adolescent health, well-being, and the provision of youth-friendly services, and also come up with a joint plan for the Young Mothers Forums (YMFs) on the basic concepts of safe motherhood.

By the end of the training, the health workers were motivated and committed to putting the skills they had learned in the provision of quality Sexual and Reproductive Health Services into practice in a way that encourages young people to seek them rather than avoid them.