March 21, 2011

JHU, Uganda’s MU complete learning initiative

The Johns Hopkins University and Makerere University in Uganda recently completed a two-year collaborative learning initiative aimed at building educational, research and service capacity at the African university to improve health outcomes in the region. Analysis and review of the two-year project’s impact are documented in a special issue of BMC International Health and Human Rights. The articles include assessments of Makerere’s educational, research and health services approaches; policy and strategic analyses of how to develop the university as a transformational institution in society; and research that demonstrates the practical role of the university in the health sector.

“There are many research projects that focus on the so-called ‘grand challenges’ solved through lifesaving technologies. We think of this initiative as tackling the ‘grander challenge’ to build the human resources and systems needed to improve and sustain health in Africa,” said David Peters, an associate professor and director of Health Systems Programs in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who led the collaboration for the Johns Hopkins team. “The project provided a unique opportunity to think strategically across the university and demonstrate how the university can make a positive impact on health.”

Nelson Sewankambo, principal of Makerere College of Health Sciences, said, “With support from Johns Hopkins, Makerere University moved farther along a critical path of self re-examination and planning for how she can better situate herself in the 21st century, and to have a greater impact in addressing Uganda’s health system needs through a social accountability lens. This twinning arrangement played a crucial role in enhancing mutual learning of both institutions through a strategic and more equitable partnership.”

Funding for the collaboration was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which awarded $4.97 million to the Johns Hopkins University and the Makerere University College of Health Sciences in 2008. As part of the initiative, the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health and the faculties of medicine, nursing and public health at both universities developed an institution-building relationship to further extend the educational, research and service capacity of Uganda’s largest university.

“This project was a unique opportunity in which two leading health-oriented institutions could share both the successes and challenges in developing innovative interventions to solve the many health problems facing their own populations,” said Thomas Quinn, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health. “While the focus was primarily on addressing Uganda’s health problems, I believe that the faculty from Hopkins learned equally from our Ugandan colleagues on how to educate our future health leaders in the area of community health and policy implementation. From this perspective, the project was a success for both institutions.”

Johns Hopkins and Makerere universities have a long history of collaboration, including seminal HIV/AIDS research and training through the Rakai Health Sciences Program and the Makerere University–Johns Hopkins University Research Collaboration, innovations in health systems and policy translation through the Future Health Systems consortium and the establishment of the Infectious Disease Institute.

“It has been particularly satisfying, while working through this collaborative learning initiative, to see faculty members from Makerere University schools of Medicine, Public Health, Biomedical Science and Health Sciences all sitting down with faculty members from Johns Hopkins’ schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health to figure out how Makerere University could better be positioned to help improve health outcomes in Uganda,” said Makerere Professor David Serwadda, who, with George Pariyo, an associate professor with the Makerere School of Public Health, led the collaboration for the Makerere team. “The teams across schools in either university planned and executed several studies together, and they have written up their findings as a team. This collaboration across schools in either university is truly exciting,” Serwadda said.

“The rewarding—and unanticipated—bonus of the collaborative initiative was the increased visibility, participation, scholarly productivity and respect of the very small Makerere nursing faculty,” said Martha N. Hill, dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and professor of nursing, medicine and public health. “They are no longer invisible, and there is institutional commitment to develop this department into a school. We remain committed to helping achieve this vision.”

The Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health is a collaboration between the university’s schools of Public Health, Medicine and Nursing that harnesses the expertise of its health and medical professionals to address global health challenges that include HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, malnutrition and hepatitis, especially in developing countries.

The special issue of BMC International Health and Human Rights documenting the Johns Hopkins–Makerere University project is available online at