It was a remarkable day on the 9th of November as top brains convened at Hotel Africana to discuss all matters public health in the first ever Public Health Youth Symposium organized by Public Health Ambassadors Uganda.
The day started off with a keynote address from Prof. John F. Mugisha, Vice Chancellor, Cavendish University who presented a topic “Public Health Professionals: A veritable tool in achieving SDGs” where he broke down a couple of issues about public health as a profession in both training and practice. He further went ahead to explain the need for public health practitioners to welcome people from other professions like journalism and social sciences who come to make a contribution in the public health sector as these help in diversifying and enriching it.
Young people from various walks of life were able to learn and share on different topics that were discussed by different panelists. These largely talked about sexual and reproductive health rights and services. Among the theses included; “My Life, My Rights, My Future: Young people and contraception, The Politics of Pleasure; Sex and Education; a dilemma among young people in Uganda” among other.
The biggest highlight of the day however was the presentation by Dr Betty Kamira from Makerere University John Hopkins University Research Collaboration (MUJHU) of the Dapivirine ring, a new HIV prevention innovation for young people that was developed by the nonprofit International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM). According to Betty the ring slowly releases dapivirine (a highly potent ARV drug that works by preventing HIV from replicating its genetic material after the virus enters a healthy cell) inside the vagina and can be used for a month at a time and women can insert and remove the ring by themselves. The ring that caused a stir during the symposium can be twisted into a figure eight and is generally easy to insert.
Among other notable presentations was Dr Angela Akol’s “Family Planning high impacts practices”. Dr Akol, who is the country Director, FHI360 stressed the need to empower more young women with family planning knowledge and services that will enable them make the right reproductive health decisions and in the long run help Uganda as a nation to achieve the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Symposium was crowned by closing remarks from Dr. Carol Sekimpi, the country Director, Marie Stopes Uganda who thanked PHAU for putting together a great event that attracted stakeholders in large numbers and for the agenda that allowed free sharing especially by the young people. She spoke about the need for concerted efforts to achieve SDG 3 and the other SDGs that have got health indicators. She called out a few health issues such as maternal mortality which is still high in Uganda and said that tackling this challenge should be through a multifaceted approach sighting sufficient evidence that mothers are still dying while giving life!
The Symposium was filled with lots of entertainment from the creative arts of poetry and music that made the symposium a whole lot more enjoyable. Notable of which was Afrie with her soul-soothing ballads that blended well with the melodies of her keyboard.
The Public Health Youth Symposium (PHYS) was an avenue for the Ugandan public health community and professionals to communicate connect and collaborate on the latest public health efforts and findings. It was a gathering of public health practitioners and multiple partners from government, academia and private organizations that share a common interest and dedication in protecting, preventing and promoting the health of the nation. PHAU intends to hold the event annually.