Preventative Health Education in a Ugandan Slum

Brynn Foster loves to sing. She also writes a few of her own songs. Here, she is teaching songs to children to help them remember basic health practices, like hand washing. 

Brynn Foster, a graduate of the Institute for Global Outreach Developments International, just finished a 15-week study abroad trip to Uganda. Interested in becoming a doctor, Brynn spent time learning the health care system as well as deepening her understanding of the issues people face. Ashley Moore, also on study abroad this semester, worked daily in the Bwaise slum—the biggest in Uganda’s capitol, Kampala. She thought it would be helpful for Brynn to offer basic health seminars for people who live in the slum. Though the content may seem rudimentary, basic hygienic practices and preventative care is literally life-saving based on the environment they live in and the lack of education they are given the opportunity to receive.

Education in basic preventative health techniques can save lives. We believe that preventative care is of utmost importance. 

Education in basic preventative health techniques can save lives. We believe that preventative care is of utmost importance. 

This week, I facilitated three hour-long seminars for the students and teachers of Excel Education Center, a primary school in Bwaise, which is a large slum-dwelling community living on the edge of Kampala. The intention of the seminars was to instruct the children and staff in practicing prevention and early treatment in their approach to personal and community health.

The first seminar was for the general student body, primary grades 1 through 5, whom I taught in 3 shifts according to their ages. I showed them five basic hygienic practices: bathe with water and soap everyday, brush your teeth everyday, wash your hands whenever you can, always wear shoes outside, and do not play in dirty water. Through repetition and actions, the students committed these practices to memory. Everyone recited them, some alone and others in groups. I encouraged them to teach their siblings at home and remind them to do the same.

Unfortunately, even adults have missed the opportunity to learn life-saving preventative health care. Brynn Foster teaches this small group in their home. 

The second seminar was for the upper primary girls, during which we discussed the menstruation cycle. Each of them wrote down the questions they had about their period. Many of them asked what it was, why it happened to them, how to use feminine products, and how to respond to some of the complications involved. I explained the female reproductive system and the changes in a girl’s body as she reaches puberty. I showed them how to apply both disposable and washable pads. I highlighted these facts: having a period is very normal, they share the experience with every woman who’s ever lived, it’s one of the only times the presence of blood is a good sign, and they have no need to be embarrassed or ashamed or keep their questions to themselves. Many of them do not have money to buy pads, so the school administration is ensuring that washable pads are purchased for and distributed to each of the girls.

The third seminar was for the schoolteachers to learn basic wound care and first aid. I took inventory of their current health supplies and created a purchase list and budget in order to restock their supply. I instructed the teachers on how to best utilize the supplies, dress wounds, stop nosebleeds, treat minor infections, and provide general care for sick and injured people.

Through these basic seminars, I was able to offer health education that, if implemented, can help save lives. I thank God for this opportunity, and I’m hopeful for a better tomorrow because of today.