Interviewed by Gabriel Oguda
Health Promoter: Anthony N. Kamau
Job title & Location: Statistician/Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer in Kenya
Job Description: Undertaking project/program research studies, monitoring, and evaluations. Anthony also trains a cross-section of health workers undertaking short trainings as well as under-graduate and post-graduate students in degree programs. Anthony teaches applied statistics, principles of health promotion, monitoring and evaluation, statistical data processing and analyses using a variety of computer software e.g. SPSS, Epi-Info, ENA-SMART (used for analyzing anthropometric data), and Microsoft-Access and Excel.
First, a look back- What were you doing before you started the Master of Philosophy of Health Promotion programme at the University of Bergen (UiB)?
I was working as a statistician/project officer with the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF). AMREF is the largest non-governmental organization dealing with health in Sub-Saharan Africa. My work involved monitoring and evaluating over 50 community health projects spread all over Kenya, especially projects located in rural areas. AMREF believes that health is a basic human right and therefore targets the most disadvantaged populations in terms of health access. AMREF’s vision is to ensure Africans enjoy better health through disease prevention and health promotion. It is involved in providing health education, training health care providers, and implementing development and health promoting projects. AMREF has projects and/or activities across Africa – in South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, and recently opened an office in Senegal to cater to the West African region.
How did you come to know of the MPhil programme at UiB? What motivated you to apply?
I knew about the MPhil course through a colleague in AMREF who had gone through the same program. Also, the University of Bergen has a memorandum of understanding with AMREF to train its staff. When I looked through the programme outline, I was instantly interested. My original background is in Statistics, but I had also previously studied public health. During my studies in public health, we completed a unit in health promotion. At the time, it was not clear what it exactly was and why it was important. When I asked my colleague about his experience in the programme, he elaborated further about the program, and I realized that health promotion training was going to add a lot of value to my background. What interested me most was the fact that I was going to improve my skills in undertaking research as well as monitoring and evaluation of health projects.
How did you originally think the programme would contribute to your work and job prospects at home?
Having realized that the program would improve my skills in research, monitoring and evaluation, I thought it would broaden my horizon and help me understand not only the research, monitoring and evaluation components but also the underlying health aspects. With my experiences in the health sector throughout my career, I was able to appreciate health promotion as I always wanted to study and understand health in its proper perspective. I realized that I was not only going to become a health professional but also a better research, monitoring, and evaluation professional.
What surprised you about the program? What did it contribute to your professional growth, beyond what you thought it would?
I found the program to be very flexible and it built my capacity especially in qualitative research methods beyond my expectations. Originally my thinking was that qualitative research was inferior to quantitative research. However, my eyes are now opened, and I really appreciate both approaches for what they are. The qualitative research training really equipped me and strengthened my research skills. Life for me will never be the same again. Qualitative research is so important because it unearths the underlying reasons as to why the outcomes in any intervention are realized. Research is not complete without qualitative research. Thanks to the program for opening my eyes, I am now one of the strongest advocates for conducting qualitative research.
What part did the program play in the professional decision you took when you returned home?
The most important aspect was seen in my growth in research. I also became a better trainer. I developed training skills from the program through the numerous presentations, knowledge and skills which were imparted to us during the course of the program. I decided to undertake research more seriously after gaining a better understanding. I also decided to begin sharing my knowledge and skills with others through training and mentoring others. I normally train short courses as well as long courses in a variety of subject areas and have realized through the training evaluation, results about my performance that I have indeed significantly improved.
In your opinion, what is the major strength of health promotion that sets it apart from other professions?
The fact that it empowers people to take control of their own health through education and/or information. There is no better approach than the one on personal health being largely determined by the individual. If everyone played their roles properly in maintaining healthy lifestyles, the health of all would improve tremendously.
In your opinion, what did you miss in the program that you think would have added to your job prospects at home?
I would have been happier if I was exposed to more advanced methods in monitoring and evaluation especially designing monitoring and evaluation log-frames. More advanced methods in designing research studies particularly in the area of sampling techniques and modeling would, in my opinion, have helped me become a better equipped monitoring and evaluation professional. I hope the program will design short courses for those interested in improving or learning various aspects in research and/or other areas of interest since these are areas which I find challenging.
What professional opportunities are there in your home country for health promotion students who are coming back home after completing their studies abroad?
There are numerous opportunities, especially if they incorporate research. Everyone with basic education appreciates that health cannot be tackled by health professionals alone. For this reason, health promotion is the way to go. While many people already practice health promotion they may not realize it.
How is health promotion, as a professional discipline, understood or rated in the professional circles in your country?
Health promotion is very well understood in my country and is now taught in majority of the universities both as a discipline in undergraduate studies and as a specialty in postgraduate studies. With time, almost every health professional will be talking about health promotion. It is unfortunate that it has taken too long to embrace it.
What professional advice would you give to a health promotion student who is coming back home after completing his studies abroad?
To sharpen his/her skills in health promotion and research since it is the way to go. There are no two ways about it; the curative model and the public health model have long been overtaken by events. People must take control of their health if health goals and objectives are to be achieved.
Do you have anything you would like to add?
I still strongly emphasize that health promotion is the way forward and no other way. It is high time that everybody embraced it. All world governments should change their approaches and go the health promotion way.
Published: May 2012, Health Promotion Connection