Undergraduate students' contributions to health service delivery through community-based education: A qualitative study by the MESAU Consortium in Uganda

Lynn M. Atuyambe, Rhona K. Baingana, Simon P.S. Kibira, Anne Katahoire, Elialilia Okello, David K. Mafigiri, Florence Ayebare, Henry Oboke, Christine Acio, Kintu Muggaga, Scovia Mbalinda, Ruth Nabaggala, Gad Ruzaaza, Wilfred Arubaku, Samantha Mary, Peter Akera, James K. Tumwine, David H. Peters, Nelson K. Sewankambo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: It has been realised that there is need to have medical training closer to communities where the majority of the population lives in order to orient the trainees' attitudes towards future practice in such communities. Although community based education (CBE) has increasingly been integrated into health professions curricula since the 1990s, the contribution students make to service delivery during CBE remains largely undocumented. In this study, we examined undergraduate health professions students' contribution to primary health care during their CBE placements. Methods: This was a qualitative study involving the Medical Education for Equitable Services to All Ugandans consortium (MESAU). Overall, we conducted 36 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs): one each with youth, men and women at each of 12 CBE sites. Additionally, we interviewed 64 community key-informants. All data were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed using qualitative data analysis software Atlas.ti Ver7. Results: Two themes emerged: students' contribution at health facility level and students' contribution at community level. Under theme one, we established that students were not only learning; they also contributed to delivery of health services at the facilities. Their contribution was highly appreciated especially by community members. Students were described as caring and compassionate, available on time and anytime, and as participating in patient care. They were willing to share their knowledge and skills, and stimulated discussion on work ethics. Under the second theme, students were reported to have participated in water, sanitation, and hygiene education in the community. Students contributed to maintenance of safe water sources, educated communities on drinking safe water and on good sanitation practices (hand washing and proper waste disposal). Hygiene promotion was done at household level (food hygiene, hand washing, cleanliness) and to the public. Public health education was extended to institutions. School pupils were sensitised on various health-related issues including sexuality and sexual health. Conclusion: Health professions students at the MESAU institutions contribute meaningfully to primary health care delivery. We recommend CBE to all health training programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number123
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 25 2016


  • Community-based education
  • Contribution
  • Health service
  • Qualitative
  • Uganda
  • Undergraduate students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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