Mariam Kamoga Namata: The Action Starts with Us





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Sep 16, 2019
by Mirabelle Morah
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Mariam Kamoga Namata: The Action Starts with Us

Executive director calls for chain reaction to promote patient safety from the grassroots up Mariam Kamoga Namata speaking during the Salzburg Global program on Moving Measurement into Action: Designing Global Principles for Measuring Patient Safety

“I realize [with] whatever level of resources, you can make a difference,” says Mariam Kamoga Namata, sitting in Schloss Leopoldskron’s Chinese Room.

Namata is the executive director of Community Health and Information Network (CHAIN) in Uganda and also the chairperson of the Ugandan Alliance of Patients' Organizations.

She is one of many participants from around the world attending the Salzburg Global Seminar program, Moving Measurement into Action: Designing Global Principles for Measuring Patient Safety.

As the executive director of CHAIN Uganda, Namata is responsible for supervising the organization’s programs and ensuring they achieve their goal of supporting vulnerable people – from orphans to individuals living with HIV, TB and other non-communicable diseases within Uganda. It’s a difficult job, as Namata explains.

“As you walk into your office, right at the door, there's this lady with her sick child, waiting for you to provide a solution. Not that she doesn't know where the hospital is. She actually knows where the health facilities are, but she's not able to go, and her child is very sick, [and] has a high temperature. She doesn't have any money to go to the health center. And she's here. She needs your help. So definitely you have to think, ‘Okay, how do I support this poor lady?’ So those are some of the practical realities I face on a day to day basis.”

Events in Namata’s personal life, affecting herself and immediate family members, motivated Namata to work towards patient safety.

When she was approached to help set up CHAIN in Uganda, an organization that promotes empowerment of people living with and affected by HIV, TB, Malaria and other non-communicable diseases, Namata saw it as an opportunity to help out.

“And when I started work I realized that that's where my life belonged and that's the work which gave me satisfaction,” Namata says.

After being selected to be part of the board of the International Alliance of Patients' Organizations and attending the Patient for Patient Safety workshop organized by the World Health Organization, Namata took it upon herself to ensure that components of health literacy and patient safety were added to CHAIN’s programs.

“I got an opportunity in 2011 to join the Patient for Patient Safety program… after going through that workshop, it was a life changing experience for me, and I realized that it was not only a national issue. It wasn’t only a personal issue, but it was a global level issue, and it needed concerted efforts. It needed every stakeholder to come on board…

“When we think about patient safety, it's about the health facilities. It's about the doctors. It's about the patient, but who is the patient?” Namata asks. “Each one of us is a patient. Let it be a doctor, a farmer, a housewife, everyone is a patient.

“So, going back to chain CHAIN after that very, very life-changing experience workshop, I took it upon myself to ensure that this is included in my day-to-day activities but also integrated in CHAIN’s programs…”

Reflecting on the program in Salzburg, Namata says the experience has been an “Aha! Moment” for her. She says, “The learning has been incredible and very empowering and, for me, every opportunity to share is empowering… This has been more than I expected, and I’m really happy to have been part of… Salzburg Global Seminar.”

Namata has made a number of presentations at high-level events, from the WHA-IGWG to the second Global Ministerial Summit on Patient Safety. If she had the chance to deliver a message to the world, what would it be?

“It's everyone's responsibility to raise awareness about patient safety, and at whatever level of resources, we can make a difference. The action starts with us.

“In my language [Luganda] we say, ‘Asika obulamu tasa mwokono,’ meaning that when you are striving for good health, you should never stop… your hand should never stop. And ‘Agali awamu ge galuma,’ meaning ‘Teeth that is together bites the meat better.’ So it’s about calling all of us to work together to promote patient safety and make a difference in our communities, especially right from the grassroots level because that’s where the biggest problem is and that’s where we should start.”

The Salzburg Global Seminar program, Moving Measurement into Action: Designing Global Principles for Measuring Patient Safety, is part of the Health and Health Care Innovation multi-year series. The program is being held in partnership with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. This program has been supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.