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This article is part of the supplement: An innovative approach to building capacity at an African university to improve health outcomes

Open Access Research

A grander challenge: the case of how Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS) contributes to health outcomes in Africa

George Pariyo1, David Serwadda2, Nelson K Sewankambo2, Sara Groves3, Robert C Bollinger4 and David H Peters5*

Author affiliations

1 HQ/HWA Global Health Workforce Alliance, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

2 College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

3 Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA

4 Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA

5 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA

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Citation and License

BMC International Health and Human Rights 2011, 11(Suppl 1):S2  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S1-S2

Published: 9 March 2011

Abstract

Background

“Grand challenges” in global health have focused on discovery and development of technologies to save lives. The “grander challenge” involves building institutions, systems, capacity and demand to effectively deliver strategies to improve health. In 2008, Makerere University began a radical institutional change to bring together four schools under one College of Health Sciences. This paper’s objective is to demonstrate how its leadership in training, research, and services can improve health in Uganda and internationally, which lies at the core of the College’s vision.

Methods

A comprehensive needs assessment involved five task forces that identified MakCHS’s contribution to the Ugandan government health priorities. Data were collected through analysis of key documents; systematic review of MakCHS publications and grants; surveys of patients, students and faculty; and key informant interviews of the College’s major stakeholders. Four pilot projects were conducted to demonstrate how the College can translate research into policy and practice, extend integrated outreach community-based education and service, and work with communities and key stakeholders to address their priority health problems.

Results

MakCHS inputs to the health sector include more than 600 health professionals graduating per year through 23 degree programs, many of whom assume leadership positions. MakCHS contributions to processes include strengthened approaches to engaging communities, standardized clinical care procedures, and evidence-informed policy development. Outputs include the largest number of outpatients and inpatient admissions in Uganda. From 2005-2009, MakCHS also produced 837 peer-reviewed research publications (67% in priority areas). Outcomes include an expanded knowledge pool, and contributions to coverage of health services and healthy behaviors. Impacts include discovery and applications of global significance, such as the use of nevirapine to prevent HIV transmission in childbirth and male circumcision for HIV prevention. Pilot projects have applied innovative demand and supply incentives to create a rapid increase in safe deliveries (3-fold increase after 3 months), and increased quality and use of HIV services with positive collateral improvements on non-HIV health services at community clinics.

Conclusion

MakCHS has made substantial contributions to improving health in Uganda, and shows great potential to enhance this in its new transformational role – a model for other Universities.