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Certification Spotlight: An Interview with Basil Omonya, Master Certified Health Education Specialist

The following interview is part of a new series to highlight the remarkable work efforts of our credential-holders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Name: Basil Omonya, BS, MCHES®  
Job Title: Health Educator
Years’ Experience: 6
Career Sector: International/Overseas | Healthcare

NCHEC: What is your current job title and where do you work?

Basil: My job title is Health Educator and I work for the Apac District Local Government, Apac Hospital Work Station in Uganda, Africa.  My normal scope of work are the duties and responsibilities expected of health educators in Uganda that include: supervising, coaching and mentoring health workers; assessing health care needs, planning, coordinating, monitoring and evaluating health education programs; developing appropriate health education strategies and materials for the hospital; liaising with government and non-governmental organizations in delivery of health education programs; participating in research activities, compiling and submitting reports; and accounting for allocated resources.

NCHEC: How has your role changed as a result of COVID-19?

Basil: The pandemic increased responsibilities for health education and promotion because the health sector has remained operational since the onset of COVID-19, unlike entertainment, tourism, education, and other sectors that are sometimes locked down by the government. I continued with the routine work with the additional task of promoting COVID-19 control and prevention measures. I have been engaged in the promotion of social distancing that includes lockdown to limit movement of people, hand hygiene, facial mask-wearing, good nutrition, contact tracing, quarantine, and vaccination. I have delivered education and promotional measures at health facilities and community and institutional settings. Provision of other routine health services requires putting in place COVID-19 prevention measures first to ensure safety.

The pandemic called for the transfer of skills in needs assessment, planning, implementation, evaluation/research, leadership and management, advocacy, communication, and ethics and professionalism that are core responsibilities of health education specialists in disease control and prevention.

NCHEC: Can you give an example of how your organization is providing health education & support to your community members?

Basil: The hospital has been providing services in a progressive manner and more of them have come up with time. From the onset of pandemic, outpatient department has been promoting facial mask wearing from the gate, directing patients/attendants to wash their hands, and screening for COVID-19 signs and symptoms. After the screening, patients and attendants without signs and symptoms are directed to various service points, and those suspected are isolated for further investigation and any other services for suspects are provided in isolation.

In the facility, health education sessions on the pandemic control and prevention measures, and compliance to the measures within the facility is also monitored. Immediately after COVID-19 onset, the facility provided quarantine services where suspects were isolated and attended to by designated staff. In the isolation unit, blood samples were taken and referred to national laboratories for investigation, but currently, the facility is carrying out COVID -19 rapid tests. Identified positive cases that are severe have been referred to Lira Regional Referral Hospital Treatment Centre. Some mild cases were managed at our facility as inpatients, but with increasing cases in the second wave, they are now getting treatment from home.

The hospital is also providing immunizations using AstraZeneca vaccine, with priority given to people most at risk. This includes: elderly from the age of 50 years, health workers, teachers, security personnel, and drivers, those with chronic diseases including hypertension, diabetes, and sickle cell etc. Prioritization also depends on the availability of vaccines, when adequate; more groups are registered for vaccine doses.

NCHEC: Have you seen positive change in public and community health over the past year?

Basil: The world is a better place at the moment compared to the previous years due to advancement in public health. I have experienced this through:

  • reduction in cases of vaccine preventable diseases such as polio, measles, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, and the current COVID-19 joining the list among others;
  • improved prevention and control of infectious diseases like malaria and HIV due to advanced disease surveillance, diagnostics and treatment measures;
  • and decentralization of health care has increased local government and community involvement and control over health and illness which is associated with increased health care effectiveness and efficiency. These are most likely contributing factors to reduction in mortality rate and increased life expectancy from 45.9 years in the year 1990 to 63.4 years in 2019 in Uganda, according United Nation Development Program (UNDP).

NCHEC: Have you experienced an increased recognition of the role of the health education specialists since the onset of the pandemic?

Basil: There has been increased recognition of health education specialists in COVID-19 control and prevention because most of the measures are behavioral that are influenced by knowledge and attitude change, and these tasks are core services delivered by health education specialists.

NCHEC: What advice do you have for newly certified health education specialists ready to enter the current work force?

Basil: Health care is dynamic. There are emerging diseases, and new technologies continue to come up. These call for psychological preparation of health education specialists in embracing change. In this situation, continuing education is important in understanding new technologies and diseases. Of relevance also are the skills from the eight areas of responsibility of health education specialist that could be employed in managing the pandemic.

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