ECTMIH 2015 award recipient – Phyllis Awor

Phyllis Awor
2015
Phyllis Awor, Post doc Researcher, Makerere University School of Public Health, Kampala, Uganda

(Interview took place in 2015)

1. What prompted your research interest in malaria?

The issue of malaria in Uganda is that it’s highly endemic, which means it’s a fact of life and almost everybody gets it. For adults it’s not extremely scary. The problem is among children that don’t have immunity and can actually die from this disease that is totally treatable and preventable. That’s the biggest problem and what personally hurts me about malaria.  As a medical doctor, I worked in the paediatric acute/emergency care clinic, treating child after child with severe malaria, many of whom could have been prevented from getting the disease or treated before the illness became severe. That is why I got involved in malaria research. 

2. What does your research involve?

I am researching ways to improve delivery of malaria medicines and how to improve quality of care in four districts in Uganda, each with a population of about 300,000 people. We use the WHO/UNICEF recommended strategy – integrated community case management (iCCM) of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea – implemented by community health workers. With support from MMV, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, World Health Organisation and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, we have adopted and piloted this intervention within private sector drug shops in Uganda. Owing to issues with public health facilities in Uganda, such as low staffing and lack of necessary supplies and equipment, the private sector has become a major source of care for sick children.

Our work harnesses the potential of drug shop owners to recognize malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea and deliver appropriate diagnostics and treatment that are affordable and accessible to families, in order to reduce child morbidity and mortality.

3. How is the research progressing?

We recently published the first 2 years of work where we found a huge improvement in the quality of care over the study period. For example, the appropriateness of care and adherence to the guidelines for malaria pneumonia and diarrhea improved exponentially after iCCM was introduced in drug shops. We now recommend that iCCM be rolled out to all drug shops in Uganda to improve the quality of care for children.

4. What was the highlight of the 9th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health for you?

Listening to Marcel Tanner was a highlight for me. What struck a chord was his insistence that there is no use in research if it’s not informing policy and practice. I am involved in policy-related research, and in the field we can really see its impact. I felt as if he was speaking to me about my work and it made me feel extremely happy.

5. What are your near and long-term career goals and how has the 9th ECTMIH meeting helped you on the journey to fulfilling them?

I recently submitted my PhD thesis based on the research I just described, so I look forward to obtaining my PhD soon. I also hope to continue this research, and support the scale-up of iCCM in drug shops country-wide.