Translating Research to Action in Southwestern Uganda

After six weeks spent in Buhoma, I have arrived back in Kampala. Reflecting on my time in Buhoma, it feels like a whirlwind of meeting new people, incredible learning experiences and long, busy days of research! It is hard to believe the bulk of the field work is done and I am beginning to wrap up my time in Uganda. In total, I conducted 8 focus group discussions in different communities within Kanugu District, including both Batwa and Bakiga women, concerning their perspectives and experiences surrounding antenatal care. Beyond this, I coordinated and carried out 3 key informant interviews with individuals working at different health care facilities in the district. I had not previously had experience leading focus group discussions or interviews, but with the help of my supervisor, I learned quickly and improved with each successive discussion. Interacting with the women, listening to their perspectives and thoughts surrounding antenatal care and nutrition, which often inevitably extended beyond these topics, was both an emotional and enlightening experience.

Having spoken to numerous women and learning of the predominant concerns they held, the importance of sharing my preliminary findings became more apparent. The bridge between research and practice is not always one that is easily navigated, but our research team wanted to ensure the work being done was shared in a timely manner with those who could use it to create an immediate impact. Given time did not permit a complete analysis of the findings, a presentation was compiled highlighting some of the preliminary trends from both the maternal health survey and focus group discussions being conducted. The presentation was delivered to hospital staff at Bwindi Community Hospital, the hospital which we were working alongside. I also had the opportunity to discuss my findings in more depth with the head of antenatal care at the hospital. We brainstormed and bounced ideas back and forth about strategies to overcome the barriers that were presented in the focus group discussions and possible ways forward. Now, in Kampala, only a few meetings remain with our contacts at Makerere University and the Ministry of Health to summarize our time in Buhoma and to disseminate some of the initial findings.

While I have had the opportunity to conduct focus groups and gather research for my prospective practicum project, this has not gone without the opportunity to explore. While in Buhoma, I had the chance to go gorilla trekking, spend a few evenings at the fancy lodges surrounding Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and hiked Mount Sabyinyo. Although not a necessity of my work here, these small adventures and relaxing evenings served as good mental health breaks as the research and cultural differences experienced while here could be taxing. Though my time in Uganda is quickly coming to a close, my return to Canada will not be indicative of the end of my practicum. I will be trading in the rolling green hills of Southwestern Uganda for a library cubicle in which I will compile my findings in a report with the hopes of publication, but more practically, in a format that can be sent to key stakeholders in Uganda.