Abt Associates: Bold thinkers driving real-world impact
Thanks to spray campaigns targeting malaria-carrying mosquitoes, school children, their teachers, and farm workers have fewer sick days. And through support from the SHOPS project, 20,000 mothers have safely delivered their babies in health facilities.
Controlling malaria and improving maternal and child health have been Abt Associates’ main areas of focus in Uganda since the company began working there for more than ten years.
Uganda has one of the world’s highest malaria rates, and the government and Ministry of Health have identified control of the disease as a top priority. Beyond its life-threatening consequences, malaria packs an economic punch. It is responsible for $200 million in lost productivity in Uganda each year.
For Abt’s USAID-funded indoor residual spraying (IRS) program, it’s not just about getting rid of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, it’s also about building Ugandans’ ability to address the health, economic, and educational challenges that malaria presents.
Abt works with local governments to spray households against malaria-carrying mosquitoes in 10 districts in northern Uganda, protecting the health of a population of nearly 2.6 million—including more than 538,000 children under age 5, and 81,000 pregnant women.
“Because the mosquitoes that cause malaria bite at night, it’s important to spray places where people sleep. We spray houses, and we also target school dormitories, hospital wards, and prisons,” said Richard Ocan, the project’s field operations manager.
The IRS program is a comprehensive initiative that includes environmental safety compliance, spray operator training, operations management and cost-cutting efficiencies, health education to raise awareness about the importance of IRS, and safe storage and transportation of spray materials.
Several innovative approaches have been adopted by the program to ensure greater impact and achieve cost efficiencies. For instance, by paying spray operators to use their bicycles for transportation during spray campaigns, workers see additional income, while the project’s transportation costs decline. The use of bikes also has made it easier to spray in hard-to-reach locations.
Additionally, women are employed as spray operators, opening the way for them to have greater participation in the country’s economic growth.
While IRS management is principally focused on the public sector, Abt has also found ways to expand private sector involvement. For example, it has provided training to private pest control companies, which are unregulated and often use methods that can contaminate the environment and jeopardize health.
By “doing good,” private sector companies find that they are also doing well.
“My business has increased by 100 percent, and IRS is now my main service,” said Chris Kaweesa, whose company Dag and Bragan in Kampala underwent IRS training. “Our customers appreciate it that we can tell them about safety issues, the chemicals we use, and how we dispose of waste and protect the environment.”
The well-being of Ugandans is also the focus of Abt’s USAID-funded Strengthening Health Outcomes Through the Private Sector (SHOPS) project, which is improving the health of women by increasing access and quality of comprehensive obstetric care delivered through the private sector.
Since 2012, SHOPS has implemented the Healthy Baby Voucher Program as part of the Saving Mothers Giving Life Initiative, in which poor pregnant women can purchase a maternity voucher. Many Ugandan women lack access to health care because of geographical and financial barriers, and the voucher program aims to overcome these two challenges. A voucher provides access to four antenatal care visits, delivery at an accredited health facility, a transportation subsidy to a health facility for delivery and one postnatal care visit.
Through the voucher program, SHOPS has supported more than 20,000 mothers delivering babies safely at health facilities. In addition, the project trained and accredited providers at 47 private health facilities to be able to provide high quality maternity services.
Said one mother who participated in the program, “Had I not have gone to the skilled attendant at a health facility, I wouldn’t be with this baby. I have managed to have her because I bought a voucher.”
Maternal mortality has been reduced by 30% in districts targeted by the Saving Mothers Giving Life Initiative through the combined efforts of the Initiative’s partners, including SHOPS.
Most recently, the SHOPS project played a pivotal role in a new campaign addressing childhood diarrhea in Uganda.
In collaboration with the U.N. Commission on Life-Saving Commodities, SHOPS recently joined the Clinton Health Access Initiative and McCann Global Health Advertising in the campaign to scale up the use of zinc and oral rehydration salts (ORS) to keep children healthy.
The SHOPS child health team helped develop the campaign’s promotional materials, available through a new website. The educational materials include print and video aids, posters, and brochures for clinics, front-line health workers, and caregivers. The training video is available in six local languages in Uganda.
“Working closely with the government of Uganda to support national health policy goals, Abt Associates has truly had a positive impact on the lives of millions of Ugandans,” said Dr. Diana R. Silimperi, head of the company’s International Health Division. “It all flows from our mission to improve the quality of life and economic well-being of people worldwide.”
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.