Meet the Blogger! Tamara Bugembe of African Child Health talks about her experience!

After successfully initiating the Meet the Blogger* section of our Blog with an interview with Kishan Karripannon, it is now time to meet another public health blogger, Dr. Tamara Bugembe and learn from her experience in using a blog to promote health.

Meet Dr Tamara Bugembe, a Ugandan paediatrician who is currently training in the UK with the aim of returning back to Uganda someday. She is the founder of African Child Health, a blog that focuses on paediatric research involving African children.


IJPH: What is African Child Health? (ACH)

TB: African Child Health (ACH) is a website where abstracts of all the paediatric research involving African children published this year has been collated. The researched in grouped by region of Africa, month of publication or speciality for easier browsing. All the information is on one website and easy to identify.


IJPH: Why did you set up African Child Health?

TB:  When I was doing a Masters in Tropical Paediatrics I realised that medicine in the developing countries is a rapidly evolving field with new research being published faster than textbooks could be updated. The only way to ensure our children continue to receive the best level of evidence based care is to keep up to date with this published research.

This is a highly impossible task in many settings in Africa. The research involving and relevant to African children is published in over 150 different medical journals. Searching digital medical databases is also impractical because of difficulties with internet connections, not to mention that the databases are more suited to identifying specific articles than general browsing. Subscribing to printed medical journals is expensive and the postal systems not always reliable, and as mentioned earlier one would have to subscribe to many journals to stay on top of the vast amount of research.

On the website the research is collected with fortnightly medical database searches and organised by country of research, clinical specialty and month of publication. More detailed searches by author, disease, vectors can also be performed.

There are so many innovative ideas being developed in paediatrics across the continent of Africa. I wanted to create a platform where this information could be collated and shared. Researchers could avoid duplication of efforts and build from work that has already been done in their field, collaborations could be formed, good studies replicated in new populations. Hopefully soon we will also have forums where difficult patients could be discussed, and ideas refined.


IJPH: Who did you set up ACH for?

TB: ACH is for paediatricians, surgeons, epidemiologists, pharmacists, lab technicians and so on. Basically anyone involved in the health care of children in Africa. This includes scientists, researchers and those that develop health policy. I hope the website can also be used by parents, to empower them to advocate for better health care for their own children, but also so they can direct research towards issues and outcomes that are relevant to them.


IJPH: What challenges have you encountered in developing the website?

The first challenge was having the courage to set up the website. I was a paediatric registrar in the UK. I had some training in Tropical medicine but little work experience in the developing world. I was not an academic and though I was fascinated by clinical research I found it quite intimidating. I’ve had a lot of support from my friends working in Africa as paediatricians and others interested in forums such as CHILD 2015.

ACH is at present a one man show. I would love some support promoting and marketing the website on social media and across hospitals and health centres on the continent. I fear that right now ACH isn’t yet able to reach the people it was designed for.

At the moment I am based in Cameroon on a Royal College of Paediatrics/ VSO Fellowship. My clinical work here is very demanding and the internet is erratic and slow. I find that I have less time to keep the website updated. This has also made to difficult for me to set up direct links to the full articles that are available via open access.

Ideally I would like to build a team so we are represented in different parts of Africa and across different specialties.


IJPH: Where do you see ACH going in the next five years

I would like the evolution of the website to be driven by the people using it. I seriously consider all feedback I receive, and endeavour to make the website as user friendly as possible. I think research and health policy in this field should be directed by the beneficiaries, the children and their families. I hope the website develops them to empower them to play this role.

I hope ACH moves beyond research and becomes a platform for topical discussions such as difficult cases, identifying and improving research questions etc. I hope to be able to advertise of jobs, courses and opportunities that at the moment are not reaching those that would probably most benefit from them. I hope to use different forms of communications such as podcasts and video clips to raise the profile of key research and presentations.


IJPH: Any final words?

ACH is less than 6 months old. I am very interested in hearing people’s thoughts. Please contact me with any suggestions. at  tbugembe [a] or on twitter @tbugembe


* Meet the Blogger” is a section where invited Public Health bloggers will be contributing posts about their own research and/ or their experience on using social media in their work.

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