Janet Apio is in her second year of studies in the Master of Public Health Leadership program. While working as a nursing assistant, she completed an undergraduate degree in Environmental Management and now works as an Environmental Officer in her rural community.
STM: Janet, tell us why you decided to enroll in the Save the Mothers program.
JA: It was after realizing the need in my community – and my own lack of knowledge in how to help people – that I decided to join Save the Mothers. My husband is a pastor, and since the closest government hospital is 20-kilometres away, and people here have no means of transportation other than bicycles or motorcycle taxis, we opened a community-based health facility in our village. As a family, we believe that we are called to provide maternal and child health services to remote areas.
STM: How many people does your health facility care for each month?
JA: From 645 to 945 people, including 120 children under the age of five, and 120 mothers who visit for their antenatal [prenatal] care appointments. In an average month we immunize 180 infants, handle 60 deliveries, and refer up to 40 mothers due to a lack of facilities to adequately care for them. Most of the 110 adults we see monthly suffer from malaria and typhoid. But we also provide counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS and for sexually transmitted diseases. The people who come to our facility cannot afford to go to government hospitals, and the only means of transport is bicycle or motorcycle taxi.
STM: When will you graduate?
JA: I hope to graduate in October 2018, however I am still struggling to pay for last semester’s tuition.
STM: How has your learning in this program changed you?
JA: I realize that taking steps to improve maternal and child health can go far beyond medical interventions alone. I am now able to serve—even outside the heath unit through mobilization, sensitization, and outreach—by giving health education to people in the community about prevention measures, nutrition, and more.
STM: How have you been able to use what you have learned so far to help your community?
JA: The most significant problem in our community is maternal and child death. Through my training, I learned that these deaths are caused by three delays: the delay at home in seeking health care, the delay on the way to the health facility, and the delay once at the facility, in receiving help on time.
After mobilizing girls and women to come for antenatal [prenatal] care services, I teach them about the three delays and also encourage them to attend the recommended minimum of four antenatal care appointments during their pregnancy. This helps me to detect the signs of obstructed labour as early as possible, so that I can refer emergencies to a government hospital.
In recognition of my desire to serve the community, I was elected by our District Health Officer as chairperson in Bulesa sub-county to lead and mobilize all clinics and drug shops.