By John Agaba
Emily Katarikawe, the Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG) managing director has described non-communicable diseases — that include, among others, cancer and hypertension — as the new problem threatening humanity the world over that needs “immediate” attention.
“The world is now bothered with non-communicable diseases. How can we eliminate diabetes? How can we find a cure for cancer? These are the diseases posing a threat. And as Ugandans, we cannot afford to lag behind — because we can wake up when it is too late,” Katarikawe said.
She was speaking at the launch of UHMG’s new five-year strategic plan that will see the group expand their outreach to also include health promotions in areas like cancer, hypertension, et all.
UHMG, known for its dedication to reduction of HIV incidences in the country, is perhaps more popular for its clear-cut and in-your-face messages against the virus like that famous “Get off the Sexual Network” advert.
But in the new five-year strategic plan, announced Thursday, the group will also look to spreading the campaign in the fight against non-communicable diseases.
“We want to also focus on these diseases (non-communicable diseases) because they are a threat,” Katarikawe said at the group’s offices in Kampala.
“Statistics show they are on the rise, even here in Uganda,” she added.
She, however, said that focusing on non-communicable diseases didn’t mean they were abandoning maternal and child health and HIV plus malaria which continues to be the number one killer disease in the country.
UHMG started in 2006 with a mandate to market safe health practices in Uganda.
Since 2007, it has promoted family planning, use of insecticide treated mosquito nets and condom use.
It has also supported a network of private clinics — the Good Life Clinics located country wide — complementing the work of the ministry of health.
“The challenge is that we can’t reach everyone. But it is out target to try as much as we can and reach services to the people, especially those in the rural areas,” Katarikawe said.
She said they were now operating in about 90 districts in Uganda.
Access to quality health remains a challenge in Uganda. And the high numbers of children who die before five years and the number of women who die while giving birth, only manifest a need for quick interventions. We are lagging behind in promotion of woman health and reduction of child mortality.
A new UNAIDS report released Thursday says Uganda has the highest percentage of new HIV infections in eastern Africa. Globally, the country comes in third position after South Africa and Nigeria.
Prof. David Serwadda from the Makerere University School of Public Health and UHMG founder member, said: “We know what we are supposed to do. We know if you give people ARVs, you reduce their chance of infecting their partners. We know about elimination of mother to child transmissions. What we need is commitment to scale up these interventions.”
The function was also used to send off AFFORD, a USAID-funded health marketing group which has been partnering with UHMG.
Leslie Reed, the US mission director, said, the US was committed to reaching care to vulnerable communities especially people living with HIV.
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