Designing Disease Control Programmes in Developing Countries – Team Awesome

By Nwaizu Azuka, MSc Control of Infectious Diseases

I have become so familiar with the word DEADLINE, as I have had to find it on every corner for the last 4 months. Another deadline approached by the middle of the first term; this time for the choice of my terms 2 and 3 modules. As a Control of Infectious Diseases (CID) student, I had 2 compulsory modules in the first term, which made the choice of the rest a bit easier. But here was I, having to choose one module from each slot of 10 very good modules. For once I thought, oh how easy it could be at times when choices are made for you. However, as I write, I am grinning from the fact that two of the modules are safely tucked away and I really enjoyed them.

Of particular note was the Designing Disease Control Programmes in Developing Countries (DDCP) module, which I did in my C1 slot. It was something I always had my eyes set on, longing for the skill, but not exactly sure what to expect from the module. Then the journey took off on January 12, with the course organiser announcing that we had our visas and were figuratively ready for the flight to have a hands-on learning in the field. Anyway, it all happened inside the School and the hands-on learning was brought to us and made so real. The first task was the choice of disease groups; a first choice and a second choice disease group, with the assurance that we will likely get our first choice. Probably my first choice was over-subscribed, lol, and I was handed my second choice – to be part of designing a malaria control programme for Rukungiri in South-western Uganda, with 6 AWESOME team mates and a versatile facilitator. So awesome were my team mates that one day, one of them exclaimed that this team is TEAM AWESOME. I learnt more than I could imagine working in this group. However, I must confess that it was not clear from the beginning where the design was heading (we were rookies you know); but our fulfillment at beholding the finished work convinced us to sit down and have a drink (or two!). An important lesson in group work came to the fore. The particular intervention I wrote up (bed net distribution) happened to be less cost-effective in our context and had to bow to two others which gave more value for money in our context. My hard work gone! But it was for the greater good of the group and at least I played the devil’s advocate and strengthened our conviction that we had chosen the right interventions. New roles were assigned and we made progress.

So, in the end, rookies like us were able, with the facilitation of our amazing facilitator, to design a real malaria control programme within a restricted budget frame, with realistic time lines, budget and mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation. For real! When I spent one whole Sunday digging through literature for figures to aid with budgeting and adjusting for inflation, I did actually feel like I was planning a real intervention. All in all, I entered a rookie but the evaluation of my course organisers, who, themselves, carried out an intervention, probably unknown to them, will determine how much I have been transformed. Their intervention was in the form of giving me knowledge to influence my behaviour. But I also got an opportunity to evaluate their teaching to see how well they have achieved the goal and objectives of the module. Please let’s always try and make out a few minutes to give these evaluations, they can make a difference.

Finally, as I write, I and my AWESOME TEAM MATES wait, with fingers crossed for the result of the evaluation from our course organisers, which though should be significantly associated with our evaluation of their achievement of the goal(s) and objectives of their intervention (the module) , but as you can imagine, dwarfs our own evaluation. WE NEED THE GRADES!

Shout out to my team mates: the charismatic Gemma, the resourceful Adriana, the energetic Sam, the analytical Eun Seok, the dynamic Kim, and the awesome Sophia. You guys are amazing and I will work with you again anytime.

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