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Cycle 7 (2018 Deadline)

Reproductive Health Empowerment through Telehealth (REHEAT)

PI: Agnes Kiragga (, Makerere University
U.S. Partner: Keith Horvath, San Diego State University
Dates: February 2019 - May 2021

Project Overview:

This initiative is built on an existing and well tested theory of change—the Information, Motivation, and Behavioral Skills (IMB) model—as well as a novel information dissemination method using telehealth. The IMB model proposes that health behavior and behavior change results from being well and accurately informed, having the personal and social motivation to engage in the behavior, and having the appropriate behavioral skills and self-efficacy to use them. The PI and her team will develop a Family Planning (FP) information package using a human-centered approach involving end users and subject matter experts in the design. This will allow the study team to develop and pilot content that is both culturally and scientifically appropriate. The telehealth services for the project will leverage an existing telehealth contact center and platform run by The Medical Concierge Group (TMCG), a local digital health company in Uganda. The contact center presently provides telehealth and mobile health services through voice calls, SMS, Whatsapp, email, and social media. It has been widely adopted over the last five years and supports voluntary family planning, among other health areas, across national programs for the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, USAID, and clinical research organizations.

To evaluate the impact of their work, the researchers will assess users’ level of knowledge before and after implementation of the FP intervention. With input from a community advisory board, they will design an information pack to be implemented through the already existing telehealth platform and assess its impact on FP uptake among men. In addition, their evaluation of the platform will provide informed guidance to future implementing teams to design FP or other sexual and reproductive health interventions using similar platforms. Given the barriers that men face in accessing traditional FP services, telehealth services have the potential to increase young men’s access to reproductive health information and offer a model for their delivery and other health services countrywide. Given that more than 70% of the population in Uganda are youth, the project is timely as it uses platforms that are youth-friendly (e.g., SMS and social media) to deliver important information on family and reproductive health to change behavior and increase voluntary uptake and use of services.

Summary of Recent Events

In the first quarter of 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that caused a countrywide lock-down, project activities were halted, particularly participant recruitment. This affected the planned project timeline.

With the current government of Uganda easing the lock-down in a phased manner and following guidance by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology on the resumption of research activities, the project team has developed a Risk Management Plan awaiting approval by the IRB to be followed when project activities fully resume. Furthermore, participant consent for the pending study participants will be done over the phone. This is acceptable and recommended by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology.

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