Use preventive healthcare to fight Covid-19

Author: Robert Tumwijukye

What you need to know:

“If we adopted preventive health care, probably we wouldn’t have a high patient load.’’

As Uganda gets out of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are many lessons that we should learn, so that if another wave hits we are more prepared.
 Embracing preventive healthcare is one of the viable options that we still don’t consider and yet it can lower one’s chances of becoming part of the statistic.

Preventive healthcare helps decrease the disease burden and other related factors. It’s aimed at delaying the onset of illness and disease, and to prevent untimely and premature deaths using well-established approaches such as blood pressure checks, cancer screening, vaccinations etc. These tests enable early detection of disease when treatment is likely to be most effective.

According to the Ministry of Health 2010 report, more than 75 per cent of the disease burden in Uganda is preventable. This implies that if the focus was shifted to preventive care rather than curative care, the country would be saving 75 per cent of the total budget allocated to the Ministry of Health and probably this would reduce the chronic underfunding of the sector.

If 75 per cent of patients that turn up to seek medical care in health facilities are kept away as a result of practicing preventive healthcare, then most challenges such as overcrowding in government health facilities, drug and health supplies  stockouts would be dealt with. Also, the quality of the healthcare would tremendously improve. 
Preventive healthcare approach can help reduce risk factors that in some cases lead to chronic illness such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases majority of which are preventable but continue to claim lives. 

If we adopted preventive healthcare, probably we wouldn’t have a high patient load as experienced in most health facilities recently during the upsurge in the pandemic.  
There is need for comprehensive care programme that encourages individuals to lower the chances of preventable risk factors such as maintaining proper weight, screening for diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, encouraging a healthy life style such as healthy eating and regular exercise.
Additionally, there is need for a deliberate government policy that can transfer the health responsibilities back to the respective communities and homes where hygiene is a concern for all with punitive /reward measures to encourage community participation.  Improvement of sanitation and enactment of relevant by-laws for example a pit-latrine for every household to prevent diarrhoea, washing hands with soap and water after every visit to the toilet and before eating food, drinking of boiled water to reduce cholera, dysentery, typhoid and sleeping under treated mosquito nets to reduce malaria cases.  
The Constitution and the 1997 Local Government Act mandates the District Local Government to plan, budget and implement health policies and health sector plans.

 The local governments have the responsibility for the delivery of health services, development and passing of health related by-laws and monitoring of overall health sector performance, this, however, concentrated on curative rather than preventive, besides it’s still weak as result of insufficient funding and supervision.
If any change is to be realised, we need community mobilisation for mindset change, to work on public perception of the country’s health agenda, preventive care must be emphasised, we need to maximise whatever is budgeted for by carefully avoiding unnecessary risk factors. 

The author, Robert Tumwijukye is a senior citizen (health expert) 


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