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Making the Public Health Link: My Experience at the Institute Of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium

By Juliana Nantaba:
The Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium (ITM) is one of the leading institutes for training, research and assistance in tropical medicine and health care in developing countries. Through my work as a project officer on CEHURD’s GO4HEALTH research project collaborated by ITM, I was informed about the 7 week specialization short course on Health Policy for health professionals and researchers involved in health systems.

After undertaking this short course, it is a hard task to write about the experience in only age, so I will only give you a glimpse. The course kicked off in March 2014 with a class of about 20 participants with various backgrounds including political science, psychology and sociology, economics and medicine.

Even though I was the only lawyer among the participants, their diverse backgrounds and work experience from different low and middle income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin coupled with that of faculty professors gave me a memorable, productive and invaluable understanding on various public health issues.
Through out the course period, we progressively navigated through different health policy issues in public health. These were covered under three modules titled; 1) health policy analysis, 2) right to health and 3) Health System Reform.

These were covered through lectures, group work, and use of case studies and innovative methods like “fish bowls” with the support of resource persons. Within each module we analyzed various aspects in health systems, their challenges and also drew examples from various country contexts on strategies to address the problems as well as possible solutions.

Interestingly and also very relevant for me, was the fact that all the discussions were also done in-light of current global health and global issues like the move towards Universal Health Coverage, realizing the right to health, access to medicines issues, post 2015 MDGs Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) and roles of various stake holders.

As such, the course did not only tackle issues theoretically but gave me an opportunity to apply available theories to practical situations and health system challenges from all over the world and most importantly to my research as a lawyer working in the public health environment in Uganda. Another valuable element of this course entailed attending various seminars and public defenses for PhD students.

At this point you are wondering, “was it all work and no play?” of course not! The ITM student service organized various activities to enable the students visit various places including the city of Antwerp, Brugge, Amsterdam and my personal adventure with friends to Gent and Paris.

Special thanks to the various GO4HEALTH partners especially in work package 2 for your effort and interest in building capacity of young researchers who are part of the project, to the office of the Director  General for Development cooperation, Belgium for the study scholarship and to the CEHURD staff for their support through out the course.

After my ITM experience, I feel very energized, equipped and ready to take on health system research and advocacy and contribute to litigation for realizing the right to health in Uganda. All this I am ready as a lawyer with a perspective appreciates various public health issues.


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