"Few books have mastered such a breadth of complex issues and done so in such clear and readily understandable prose. ...essential reading for every medical student and resident in the country, as well as anyone else who cares enough to address directly the health inequalities that plague so much of humanity."

-Robert Sparks, MD, Dean Emeritus Tulane University School of Medicine, President Emeritus and Senior Consultant for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, former Chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, member Institute of Medicine.

Uganda is an East African country of 38.9 million with an average annual income of $584 per person. The average Ugandan has a life expectancy of 59 years and 1 in every 23 infants dies before their first birthday. The leading causes of death and disability are HIV and malaria.

Despite the challenges, Uganda is slowly growing. A secure health infrastructure and a sustainable health workforce are vital factors that underpin economic growth and societal progress. Moreover, these factors are keystones of health equity and social justice.

Omni Med began work in Uganda in March 2008 as part of the Brookings Institution's International Volunteering and Service Initiative. This initiative is designed to increase the number of US volunteers who serve around the world each year. In April of 2007, Dr. O'Neil was asked to chair a working group at Brookings on the dire healthcare worker shortage in Sub-Saharan Africa, estimated to be around 1.5 million short. In this program, we are creating an innovative means to engage US health volunteers to address this critical health worker shortage. Omni Med has developed a model in which US health volunteers train Ugandan community health workers, and coordinate efforts in which they construct protected water sources, construct clean cookstoves and install ITNs. The Ugandan Ministry of Health has embraced the program and Omni Med is working under the aegis of the Village Health Teams Initiative in which local community health workers, dubbed Village Health Teams or VHTs, provide immediate care for their local communities, offering a full range of preventive and treatment services to the most rural populations. An innovative aspect of the program is the rigorous evaluation of the volunteers impact, something decidedly lacking but desperately needed in the service sector.

The program is based in the Mukono district of Eastern Uganda. Training for volunteers occurs principally on site, but also through a large amount of training materials supplied beforehand. A variant of the Ugandan-generated Village Health Team Manual serves as the basis for training, and US instructors cover all areas within, including malaria, maternal-child issues, sanitation, clean drinking water, etc. As of January 2015, Omni Med has sent more than 60 volunteers to Uganda to train upwards of 1200 community health workers (VHTs).

We are working towards publishing a randomized controlled trial that assessed the impact of the Omni Med program on health knowledge and practice in communities in the Mukono district. The goal of this trial is to hold our feet to the fire and rigorously assess the impact of our program and identify areas needing improvement or change. In partnership with The George Washington University and Makerere University, we are currently in the midst of a cross-sectional study on how VHTs can be optimally supported and sustained in their work. Volunteers have played important and central roles in these research projects and we plan to continue this model of volunteer-driven research in the years ahead. The ultimate goal of our research is to develop a scalable program with a rich knowledge base that can serve as a template throughout the country, and East Africa. We fully expect that the benefits to the volunteers, the US image abroad, and, most importantly, to those in the villages served, will be substantial.

We are looking for motivated volunteers who are currently working or training to work in a health-related field. Students, both graduate and undergraduate, are also encouraged to apply. Together with our volunteers, we seek to partner with current and future VHTs, working towards our ultimate goal: community empowerment in health. Anyone interested in getting involved, please contact Dr O’Neil at ejoneil@omnimed.org.

To read more about this program,  download the brief descriptive documents and program brochure below:
Uganda Program Brochure (Updated 7/29/10)
Brief Program Overview
Brief Overview of Omni Med's Research in Uganda

For a more comprehensive overview of the program and its structure, download this full-length description (34 page document). Please note that the program has evolved considerably since this original concept paper. Please check with Omni Med for updates:
Uganda Full Length Program Description (from August 2009)

Below is a copy of the Village Health Team Training Manual used to train our local Village Health Workers.

VHT Training Manual

Uganda is an East African country bordered by Kenya, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Population is 38.9 million with an average annual income of $584 per person. 1 in 4 Ugandans lives in poverty.

Life expectancy is 59 years. 1 in every 23 infants dies before their first birthday. 1 in every 13 adults is infected with HIV.

Each year, Uganda receives over $1.5 billion in official development assistance in addition to millions of dollars in private humanitarian aid.