As a group of women and youths harvest sunflower seeds under a mango tree in llaakot village, Agago district, Annet speaks glowingly about her local health volunteer.
“Agnes is amazing. She teaches me how best to feed my baby. She also teaches me how to use the family mid-upper-arm-circumference (MUAC) tape to measure my child’s growth and monitor their progress at home,” says Annet.
Annet is talking about Agnes (25), a Community Conversations Facilitator (CCF) under the Health ACT (Accountability Can Transform) programme, a Maternal Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) project piloted by GOAL in three sub-counties of Agago district, northern Uganda. The project, supported by Irish Aid, is currently supporting twenty health facilities in the district.
Improving Health Practices
Agnes is one of sixty facilitators, trained to support the improvement of health seeking behaviours at household level. The initiative uses a social behavioural change approach to encourage communities to adopt better health practices. Practices include improved handwashing, use of mosquito nets, antenatal care visits, family planning practices, and immunisations of under five-year-olds, among others, to ensure families are safe from the burden of disease.
Facilitators also refer community members to health services such as counselling, family planning clinics, antenatal care, malaria treatment and other health related issues in the communities.
When Agnes became a facilitator, she was linked to 230 members of her community who had different health issues to deal with.
“I conduct two sessions a month with the community to find out what health challenges they may be facing. I then do follow-ups for those that need more support and liaise with the health facility to have them seek treatment for whatever illnesses they have. I also pass on any feedback from the community to the local health official,” says Agnes.
Aldo Onek Otim, who manages Omot Health Centre, notes Agnes’ impact.
“She helps in following up with expecting mothers in the community and this has improved the number of health facility deliveries in the area, which is hugely important.”
Community Conversation Facilitators also help in the identification of new cases of malnourished children. As a result of their close relationships with the families in their communities they can talk freely about their conditions.
Full of Confidence
Before becoming a facilitator, Agnes was very crowd-shy and reserved. Now she is full of confidence and inspiring other women to speak out and educate their community. .
“Once I got the training from GOAL staff, I started getting the confidence to speak to people. You know, our men are very intimidating at times. But I have won their hearts through the constant engagements that I have had with them,” Agnes says.