Access to quality health care that is affordable is a problem to which many in the United States can relate. In Uganda, government run health centers are supposed to provide affordable care by subsidizing the costs of medications and consultations. However, a woman who is giving birth for example has to bring her own delivery kit of gloves, cotton balls, plastic sheet cover, razor blade, flashlight, needle, thread, and disinfectant. Often times the government clinics lack equipment and supplies and are not stocked with medications. So, anyone seeking treatment at the government clinic will often times be referred to another government clinic, and then another clinic, which all lack the same things.
Our partner, Bishop Asili Hospital, tends to be the last stop on a persons journey for medical care, because it is a private nonprofit hospital that costs a bit more - yet it is fully resourced with equipment, supplies, experienced medical staff, and medications. By the time many reach Bishop Asili, they are in dire need of emergency care.
This is where Save for Health comes in, a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with Bishop Asili setting up health care cooperatives at the parish level (a parish is comprised of 6 neighboring villages). Their mission is to improve the quality of health of Ugandans through self-managed community health financing approaches, or simply health care cooperatives. Save for Health has established 37 health care cooperatives within the catchment of Bishop Asili so far, serving over 18,000 individuals. A family of five pays a membership fee of 60,000 shillings annually, roughly $25. Each individual is then covered up to 500,000 shillings ($200) in medical care, including dental. At Bishop Asili, a c-section for example costs approximately 350,000, which is around $150.
Save for Health has plans this year to expand their services to parishes which include two of our school communities. During a round of focus groups with our school communities back in December, many raised lack of access to health care and health education in their communities as a major challenge. One of Just Like My Child's long-term goals is to overlap five of its programs focusing on education, human rights, girl empowerment, micro-enterprise and access to health care in all the communities it serves. Currently our school communities are benefiting from three of our five programs, missing out on our micro-enterprise and health programs. Introducing Save for Health Uganda to two of our school communities will help enable families to look after each other within a community, be able to save for their own health needs, access good health care from 'unaffordable' health service providers, and bring JLMC closer to its goal.
During the introduction meeting in our Kyevunze school community, a woman councilor from Kikoma village was thrilled with the possibility of a health care cooperative in her community. She strongly encouraged the community members to set up a cooperative, stating she has experienced the downside of not having a program like this. At one time, she had to jump from clinic to clinic to find somewhere to treat her illness, wasting time and money on transportation. She ended up spending more money than the annual Save for Health membership fee. As part of a Save for Health cooperative, she could have immediately accessed a reputable hospital with quality care and saved money and time, ending her suffering sooner.
Joining a Save for Health insurance cooperative is a great opportunity for the Kyevunze community. At least 70 households, about 450 individuals, must be interested and become members of a cooperative for the cooperative to be created and sustained. However, even with testimonials from the crowd, it is difficult to convince people to spend what little money they have on insurance they may or may not use.
Next Save for Health introduction is planned for our Katikamu school community.