RELAB-HS Launch: Improving access to rehabilitation in Uganda
The Uganda Learning, Acting and Building for Rehabilitation in Health Systems (ReLAB-HS) launch took place in Lira district in the northern sub-region of Lango on 24th February. Led by the Minister for Health of the Republic of Uganda, Dr, Jane Ruth Aceng, the event drew a crowd of community members, local councillors, representatives of NGOs and CSOs, ReLAB-HS consortium partners and a large delegation from the Ministry of Health.
The Director of ReLAB-HS, Associate Professor Abdul Bachani, explained the ambitious aim of ReLAB-HS is to work with the gathered stakeholders and Ministry of Health to improve access to rehabilitation services and assistive technologies (AT) across the health system, a pressing challenge in Uganda.
As one stakeholder noted, only a small fraction of Ugandans with rehabilitation needs access appropriate care. Concerningly, the number of Ugandans with rehabilitation needs are projected to increase due to rising incidence of non-communicable diseases and a population that is living for longer. Dr. Aceng acknowledged the scale of this challenge, but also the opportunity represented by ReLAB-HS to address it through engagement and partnership. She pledged her commitment and that of her department to fruitful collaboration.
The launch coincided with provision of wheelchairs to residents of Lira by the honourable Minister of Health. While acknowledging this provision, A/Prof. Bachani, stressed the importance of a broader health system response for someone in need of AT. Dr. Bachani explained that appropriate prescription, products and follow-up should be integrated with health services and available to all Ugandans. Making this both a reality and community expectation is within the capacity of the Ministry of Health and ReLAB-HS to achieve.
ReLAB-HS is a five-year program that will respond to the escalating need for physical rehabilitation services in low- and middle-income countries. The program will focus on building local and international leadership, crafting and implementing local, demand-driven approaches and innovations, and working largely in communities and home settings, implementing real and relevant rehabilitation and policy solutions.
ReLAB-HS is led in Uganda by Mr. Jimmy Ochieng and his team from Momentum, Wheels for Humanity. The Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne co-lead the consortium. Our team was represented by Dr. Wesley Pryor, Program Technical Co-Coordinator for ReLAB HS, and Dr. Daniel Strachan. Other Re-LAB-HS consortium partners in attendance at the launch in Lira were Dr. Abdul Bachani’s team from the Johns Hopkins International injury Research Unit, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Miracle Feet, Humanity and Inclusion, and Physio-pedia.
Dr. Daniel Strachan