Highlights of the roundtable discussion meeting on non-communicable diseases control and workplace wellness programming in Uganda
Highlights of the roundtable discussion meeting on non-communicable diseases control and workplace wellness programming in Uganda held July 30, 2015 at Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala
The Agency for Co-operation and Research in Development (ACORD), in collaboration with the Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) hosted roundtable discussions focused on the rising challenges of non-communicable diseases in Uganda with a focus on the role of the private sector. The breakfast meeting had a representation from a wide range of participation including, among others, the Uganda Health Communication Commission (UHCC), Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE) workplace wellness programmes in Uganda, International Labour Organization (ILO), Ministry of Labour, and Ministry of Health, TECHNO Serve as well as other private sector companies. STOP AIDS Now funded the meeting.
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Dr. Deoagratius Sekimpi, the executive director, Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) who was the moderator for the meeting started with a congratulatory note on the passing of the Tobacco Bill, which is also included in the NCD focus. He emphasized that processes for engaging in advocacy on NCDs although they start small usually gradually develop momentum and he noted that the process for advocacy around NCDs would finally yield results if the participants committed to the cause and particularly the media.
Moses Mugabi, the Right to Health Programme coordinator, stated, while welcoming the participants, explained that ACORD seeks to contribute to tackling this health challenge by facilitating dialogue among different actors to understand the national policies and strategies and the different roles of the private sector as an important player in development in the country.
The Uganda National ILO Coordinator, Mr. David Mawejje, presenting the Global perspectives of workplace wellness shared the overview of the factors affecting employees including among others; Health hazards caused by employment and demographic shifts in structures, employment patterns, migration, Urbanization, discriminative health care services which exclude temporary or casual workers, new technologies leading to sedentary lifestyles for instance introduction of computers, intercom phones and laptops. He further explained the role of ILO as that of providing the global framework for implementation of the work place wellness responses in the country. He noted that one of the key programmes of ILO is protection of workers from health hazards, promotion of their rights to access to workplace wellness information, providing technical support to the national labour ministries. He emphasized the need to conduct a comprehensive Risk assessment to determine the possible interventions and necessary support mechanisms for promoting a health workforce as well as ensure inclusive workplace wellness programme that caters for all workers as
The Programme Manager for Non Communicable Disease (NCDs) Control, Dr Gerald Mutungi, provided the technical description of NCDs. He presented the national NCD draft strategic plan which includes prevention through the promotion of health lifestyles, management of NCDs, capacity building, intersectoral partnerships and collaborations as well as monitoring and research.
He called for organizational leadership and commitment from both public and private entities to embrace the strategic recommendations by adapting them to their own workplace. He noted that in the absence of proper and cost effective treatment, it is important for workplaces to emphasize early diagnosis of NCDs through routine workplace supported screening, promotion of awareness and sensitization as the key approaches to management of NCDs that employers can spear head. He noted that funding limitations presented challenges for the Ministry of Health to effectively implement the strategy and that joint efforts by different actors were needed to effectively tackle the rising NCD burden in the country.
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Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development – Occupational Health and Safety Department
Dr. Scarlet Mubokyi who represented the ministry, presented an overview of regulatory mechanisms for achieving compliance to Occupational Health and Safety (OSH). She noted that there are regulatory approaches including the OSH Act 2006 section 9 that applies to all workplaces and provides a framework for attainment of workplace safety and health and is aligned to the various ILO guidelines and codes of practice for particular industries/sectors.
Joseph Kyalimpa the National Trainer on workplace wellness in Uganda Manufacturers’ Association UMA, representing the manufacturing fraternity, provided an overview on lessons from Addressing Employee Health and Wellness in the Manufacturing Sector (HIV and AIDS and NCDs). He emphasized the role of partnerships and collaborations, research linked to sharing evidence about the cost benefit as key factors for achieving robust workplace interventions for promoting health and safety as well as assuring employee performance.
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Mr. George Tamale the Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE) Private Sector Advisor HIV and AIDS and Health) noted that employers often focus on Growth and Profit and hiring hire people to drive their initiatives and may not necessarily care about how the workers feel unless they have proof of what illnesses cost on organizations. He observed that the lack of these analyses leads to failure of majority of employers in the country to focus on implementing comprehensive workplace programs. They therefore perceive workplace wellness programmes as costly and reluctance to implement Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) programmes. He noted that over time companies realize unplanned for losses through the drop in labour returns and productivity attributed to Absenteeism, recurrent illnesses due to fatigue and stress, deaths, accidents, poor customer care relations due to decreased morale of workers, limited competitiveness and production of poor quality goods which leads to decreased consumer satisfaction and a loss to company owners. He too emphasized the need for companies to plan for these costs before they arise if they are to maintain their productive levels and remain competitive in the industry.