Global WACh

November 21, 2019

Certificate Student Fall Spotlight: Junyi Zhang

Last summer, Junyi Zhang, second-year MPH in Health Services and Global WACh Certificate student, studied abroad in Kampala, Uganda and started her Certificate capstone project.  The UW Uganda Study Abroad Program, co-directed by Drs. Amy Hagopian and Bert Stover of the Department of Health Services, brought Junyi and eight students to Uganda to study the relationship between water and health-based at a partner institution, Makerere University.  The four-week program included field trips to public water treatment facilities, bottling plants, farms, clinics and hospitals, family homes, and other places where people interact with water.

Junyi’s capstone project focuses on understanding water security issues faced by families of hospitalized children at health facilities lacking resources, such as water, sanitation, hygiene, and health care waste management and cleaning services.  She learned that family members in Uganda stay with patients during hospitalizations and are responsible for daily caregiving activities, including laundry and meal preparation.  However, many facilities are unable to provide safe and drinkable water for the families, placing the burden on them to find water—with potential health risks.  Unsafe water is a source of infections and illnesses, even potential death, for families and patients, for the lack of basic elements of a safe and clean environment.

Mulago National Referring Hospital’s pediatric ward in Uganda. Photo credit: Junyi Zhang

To learn more about this problem through the lens of families at hospitals, Junyi and her team prepared a study to collect their perspectives and experiences.  Research activities that contributed to Junyi’s learning included conducting a literature review, writing a research proposal, and preparing human subjects IRB application materials.  She also helped design and pilot a survey questionnaire to parents staying at Mulago National Referring Hospital, a teaching hospital for Makerere University.  The survey will be adapted and used for future larger studies on water and sanitation in other low and middle-income countries.  Junyi credits Dr. Sam Luboga, a retired anatomy professor from Makerere University and colleague of the Uganda Study Abroad Program, for guidance and assistance with her capstone project.  She worked with local university students to translate the questionnaire in native dialects for parents who do not speak English.

Key findings from Junyi’s survey demonstrated a shortage of health care workers to ease the burden on families to find safe water sources and assist with caregiving responsibilities.  Most parents at the hospital were mothers of hospitalized children and did not have other family members with them to share caregiving responsibilities.  The water and sanitation infrastructure (i.e. faucets, sinks, toilets, and stalls) needed improvement and ongoing maintenance to address the needs of the hundreds of families staying at the hospital at any given time.

The experience in Uganda greatly applied to Junyi’s academic and professional growth in the global health field of women, adolescents, and child health’s access to resources, nutrition, and chronic disease prevention. She believes that improvement for wash and sanitation standards are possible if driven by clinical leadership.  Learn more about Junyi and other Global WACh Certificate students’ capstone projects at our “Next Big Thing” year-end celebration in May 2020 at the UW Husky Union Building Lyceum.  More event details to come.