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Primary Health Care: An Ugandan Perspective

by Kisuza Ruth Ketty (SYP, GHMe, 2020)

“My grandmother has lived with diabetes and high blood pressure since 2001. She lives in a village called Koch kweyo in Gulu district, Uganda. She has had to constantly travel long distances every other month to Lacor hospital to get her insulin and check her blood pressure. Recently, she was in a motorcycle accident which left her in a very alarming health condition with her wounds failing to heal well and deteriorating health every day.” - Kisuza R. Ketty

The story above represents a huge number of Ugandans living in rural areas who have to constantly struggle to get treatment for various health conditions. The majority of health centers that offer essential health services to communities living in rural areas are in distant location. In most cases, they do not have the essential medicines to treat even common infections or offer first aid for injuries.

Furthermore, sanitation practices at these facilities are so poor that patients are quite often exposed to nosocomial infections. This has propelled the community to opt for treatment at either private clinics, which are very expensive in most cases, or they must travel to relatively cheap referral hospitals that are in a distant location and require the vast expenditure in transport fare.


The Declaration of Alma- Ata, 1978 defines Primary Healthcare (PHC) as “essential health care based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community, through their full participation, at a cost that the community and country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and determination.”

The hallmarks of PHC are accessibility, availability, acceptability and affordability. A strong PHC is the cornerstone of sustainable development, to deliver universal health coverage (UHC) for all; PHC must be advanced in association with communities.


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines UHC as “the desired outcome whereby all people who need health services (promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliation) receive them without undue financial hardship.” UHC is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, which aspires to ensure healthy lives and healthy well-being for all ages. It also includes a bold commitment to end epidemics of tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Malaria and many other diseases by 2030.

Neither UHC nor health for all will be achieved without the substantial contribution of local communities. A greater effort needs to be focused on understanding the existing gaps in health care systems impeding the development of strong PHC in low-and-middle-income countries, like Uganda. Finding practical solutions to these problems is key. Otherwise, I can state without fear of contradiction that the achievement of UHC for all is far from reality.

Making an Impact

As a Student and Young Professional (SYP) of the 2020 mentorship program cohort, Global Health Mentorships (GHMe) has given me the opportunity to study and appreciate health challenges. Firstly, in my community and secondly around the globe. I am convinced that UHC for everyone everywhere is a collective responsibility that I am willing to be a part of.

With the support of Dr Giampaolo Mezzabotta, my GHMe mentor, I chose to focus on emerging diseases, climate change and health. I am sure that a strong PHC system is key to navigating emerging diseases and controlling the detrimental effects of climate change on our health. UHC can be achieved by educating local communities on prevailing health problems; how to prevent them, maintain stable food supplies and adequate nutrition, immunization against infectious diseases and provision of essential drugs to the community.

As an aspiring global health practitioner, I am committed to improving my knowledge of global health. I intend to use the interpersonal skill set that I have acquired from GHMe's program, such as: 1) Educate my community and peers about the advantages of having a strong PHC system, and 2) network with experienced global health practitioners in order to improve my understanding of the global health landscape.

Writing blog posts and articles about threats to the health system in my country and advocating for policy reform are some of the things I envision and resolve to do going forward as a global health leader of tomorrow in Uganda.


Thank you to Kisuz Ruth Ketty for your valuable perspective. For any inquiries related to the GHMe Blog, please contact our team at

Disclaimer: This blog was prepared by the author, in his/her/their personal capacity. The opinions, views, and thoughts expressed in the blog belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Global Health Mentorships.


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