One year ago, Stella Akello, a mother of six and a small farmer, faced significant challenges if she or a family member became ill.
Her local health facility in Lapono, northern Uganda, was often overcrowded. The relationship between the community and health staff was poor and people were being denied the treatment they needed.
But thanks to the transformative Irish Aid-funded ACT (Accountability Can Transform) Health programme, life has improved for Stella and thousands like her in rural northern Uganda.
Tension with healthcare workers
According to Stella, her local clinic, the Ongalo Health Centre II, was struggling before the rollout of the programme. “There was a poor relationship and a lot of tension between healthcare workers and the community. Health workers did not manage time well, and often failed to treat patients.”
“The health facilities were always overcrowded, and staff paid little or no attention to patients. There were long waits, and often no water which led to even further delays.
As a result, many patients stopped using the facility, and some resorted to self-medication which often put their lives in danger,” said Stella.
ACT in action
ACT Health was initially introduced in 10 health facilities which cover approximately 30 villages.
It follows three principles and objectives;
- Improve the responsiveness of health centres
- Enhance the relationship between health centre staff and the community
- Instill in the community a sense of responsibility to seek help when they are ill
Central to achieving the three principles are dialogue sessions between health centre staff and communities. The dialogue sessions produce agreed action plans and give a voice to the community. They are key in delivering health reforms at district level.
Effective community dialogue
According to Richard Torac, who chairs the Ongalo Health Centre II Management Committee, the dialogue sessions have had a very positive impact and significantly improved health service delivery. Consultation with the local community has been extremely productive. Health Centre staff and the villages in its catchment area agreed an action plan which has transformed the quality of local health care.
70,000 households in the ten health districts targeted with ACT Health have benefitted with health messaging including advice on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The programme is now being extended to 10 more health centres in the district.
“I am so grateful for the improvements in our health service. Whenever I fall sick, I go to Ongalo Health Centre II for treatment, and it takes less time than before. Thank you, GOAL, for the effort in bridging the gap between the community and health workers,” Stella says.