Allow people to make own decisions

Thursday July 2 2020


By Maria Nansasi Nkalubo

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a great opportunity for the infusion of transformational leadership in Uganda’s healthcare system. Abigail Adams (1780) in her letter to her son, John Quincy Adams, wrote: “It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed.

The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties...” . “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a great opportunity for the infusion of transformational leadership in Uganda’s Healthcare system”.

The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a little of hope for Uganda in a way of strengthening government’s response to health systems challenges manifested as culture/mindset change that has characterised building trust among stakeholders; building effective relationships; development of home-grown solutions to local health challenges; and creation of a unified vision through inspiration.

The secrets to Uganda’s relentless battle during the Covid-19 outbreak are communication, coordination, and collaboration. The tone the leaders have set at both national and sub-national levels have shaped the trajectory of Uganda’s healthcare system during the Covid-19 pandemic, which should be inculcated into the country’s health systems strengthening agenda beyond Covid-19.

Effective Communication: Bruce Schineier from the Havard Kennedy School predicted the most vital actions to take in the current pandemic after the Ebola outbreak: “When the next pandemic strikes, we’ll be fighting … the deluge of rumours, misinformation and flat-out lies that will appear on the Internet”.

The first months of 2020, sadly, can only confirm this. Mal-information is currently amplified by the digital era.


The Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity to grow and strengthen credibility and authenticity in health communication.

Communication trials ushered in by the pandemic include virtual meetings, constant presidential briefs on Covid-19 Pandemic; Ministry of Health updates on Covid-19, involvement of influencers in health communication; creation of a Covid-19 portal, online social media accounts opened up to keep the public in the loop on new developments, open source information sharing sites, central call centre operations for health-related matters; drama and pop music by various local celebrities on Covid-19; among others.

This pandemic, therefore, is a prime opportunity for the healthcare professionals, epidemiologists, infectious disease experts and government leaders to assert their duty to equip governments and the public with evidence-based information using less complex texts by avoiding technical jargons and offering clear explanations of scientific terms and measures.
A key consideration for integration into Uganda’s healthcare system is effective coordination and networking. Uganda’s story has been about establishing trust among stakeholders, building effective relationships and congruence of a unified vision and values in response to Covid-19.

Uganda established a Covid-19 National Task Force and district task forces with a nationwide mandate to respond to Covid-19 and district level response respectively.

Such decentralisation in coordination has enabled balancing of the benefits of decentralisation with the efficiency of centralisation. Only in this way can existing assets be leveraged to address the upstream social and environmental factors negatively influencing the health of the population they serve.

In collaborative problem-solving and decision-making, it is not the leader’s job to decide what to do and then tell the group. Rather, the group considers the problem, decides what to do, and counts on the leader to help them focus their effort.

The collaborative leadership exhibited during Covid-19 is commended for building its ability to build coalitions where everyone is on an equal footing and working together to innovate for better healthcare delivery.

It is important in unsettled times to be mindful of one’s relationships with employees, clients, partners, colleagues and neighbours.

Ms Nkalubo the principal operations officer, Ministry of Health.