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Pepal, together with Baylor-Uganda, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and Aesara Partners, launched a new leadership programme focused on improving adolescent health in Kamwenge District, Uganda last week.

Bringing together adolescent peer leaders, adolescent focal health workers and Baylor-Uganda adolescent health specialists, this new programme is one-of-a-kind in the context of existing adolescent health interventions in the country.

Adolescent peer leaders work as volunteers at their local health facilities. Chosen because of their exemplary leadership potential, their adherence to HIV care and treatment and their passion to help their peers achieve better health, they support the adolescent focal health workers at facilities to deliver top rate service delivery to young people in their communities. It has been proven in multiple studies that peers prefer to confide in and receive care from their fellow peers and Baylor-Uganda have been engaging peer leaders in health care delivery for over two years, particularly under the incredibly successful ELMA-funded ‘Unfinished Business’ project. This new programme aims to develop the leadership skills of these volunteers - an as of yet unexplored part of their training.

Peer leaders receive their training separately from their link adolescent focal health workers but in this programme, we bring together both parties as teams. Building strong relationships of mutual respect, and creating a platform where peer leaders and health workers can share their experiences, opinions and frustrations with adolescent health services, should improve service delivery at the health facilities where the new Pepal intervention will be piloted.

Made up of three teams stationed at Ntara HCIV, Bigodi HCIII and Mahyoro HCIII respectively, the three teams have been engaged twice thus far by the programme. At both their Orientation and Immersion trainings, teams learned new leadership skills like thinking partnerships, self-awareness, conflict resolution and performance equations alongside sexual health education and counselling skills.

Together with their Baylor-Uganda and Janssen teammates, the three teams were tasked with a mission to create action plans in their communities to improve adolescent HIV and sexual reproductive health. During their Immersion training, teams visited health facilities, Community Based Organisations and local secondary schools to '“step into the shoes” of adolescents living in Kamwenge District, one of the country’s most under-served districts.

Teams presented their innovation ideas to District representatives including Central Administrative Officer, District Health Officer, Secretary for Health, District Education Officer and District Community Development Officer Kamwenge. With their full support and buy in, our teams are going to bring sexual health education to secondary schools, set up sexual reproductive health focused camps and organise family days at their health facilities to increase knowledge of and access to adolescent friendly health services over the next six months.

The Pepal Team in Uganda are excited to support the implementation of these ideas and to track their impact on adolescent health in the district.