Book: Nurse authors Uganda’s first handbook to guide Women through pregnancy

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Martin Lubega, a nurse based at Soroti Regional Referral hospital has written a handbook providing a step by step guide to health workers and women about pregnancy care.

Titled, ‘My pregnancy’, the first of its kind to be reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Health for circulation, the handbook contains chapters detailing what one needs to do from preconception, antenatal to postnatal care. 

According to Lubega, under pre-conception care for instance, the package stipulates that one has to check for genetic diseases,  vaccinate against preventable diseases and check their  nutritional status, which involves among others screening for anaemia.

He says most of the information is largely ignored by both health workers and couples, adding that he hatched idea from his experience during training at Kawempe National referral hospital.  Lubega reveals that to date expectant mothers don’t get the required antenatal care but a short conversation with busy medics in, which many times it’s hard to capture any red flags.

He says with glaring problems of access to healthcare, he thought of a solution that can provide mothers information at their comfort without necessarily having to visit a health facility.

Lubega’s book, which features images that describe what care package is required at what point comes in just as the country is recovering from the effects of the lockdown instituted to halt further transmission of COVID-19. The lockdown saw a lot of women initially failing to make it to health facilities for their antenatal appointments partly because of the break down in transport.

Dr. Charles Olaro, the Director Curative Services in the Ministry of Health who officiated at an awards event by the Social Innovation in Health Initiative(SIHI), a hub under Makerere University School of Public Health that supports none science innovations that drive health outcomes,  said such initiatives as Lubega’s came in handy to fill the gap created by COVID-19 restrictions.

During the lockdown, Lubega tried his book by embarking on zoom antenatal classes where he used the book to interact with women who needed pregnancy-related services for free.  He managed to reach 120 women through this trial campaign dubbed, ‘antenatal ku Sunday’ by December. 

Also he says he then sought approvals and put out the book for sale in various book shops in Kampala. At least 300 copies of the book have been sold.  Now, his innovation has received an award for filling the void that became more visible during the lockdown.   Speaking to URN on Thursday morning, Dr. Phyllis Awor, the Director of the SIHI hub said they awarded Lubega after a review by a multidisciplinary team from the Ministry and the College of Health Sciences that confirmed the quality of his content.

Awor says access to health education by pregnant women outside the Antenatal Care Clinic is important for improving maternal and child health outcomes noting that more than 50% of the women attending ANC don’t receive sufficient information as less than 15 minutes are allocated to each woman.  

Lubega says if endorsed by the Ministry for use in all health facilities, the book will be translated into five other languages to ensure that the entire population can put the resource to use.

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