Bachelor of Science in Nursing student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kennedy Ogutu’s project on jigger eradication has won him an international recognition in the Students Health Competition, making him one of the students’ participants who joined other health professionals, health managers, policy makers, educators, researchers from across the world during this year’s international conference on health, dubbed: The Network: Towards Unity for Health (TUFH) 2018 at the University of Limerick, in Ireland.
During the conference that ran from 16th – 20th August, 2018 under the theme: “Community Empowerment for Health,” Mr. Ogutu, a fourth year student, presented his award winning community health project he had conducted in Gichugu sub county in Kirinyaga County on eradication of jiggers which won him an international recognition and sponsorship to attend, present and share his findings with other participants at the University of Limerick.
The winning student project entitled; “Help Remove My Jigger” which Ogutu entered for the Health 2018 under the theme: Community Empowerment for Health: A Multi-sectoral Approach was conducted in Gichugu sub-county, Kirinyaga County, seeking to establish and eradicate factors associated with the jigger infestation menace in the area.
It was conducted in partnership with health promotion organization, Ahadi Trust Kenya – aimed to eradicate jiggers in the community in order to alleviate pain and suffering that residents of Gichugu area have been experiencing for a long time.
“I was inspired to participate in the student project for health competition to share my project findings”, says Ogutu, who adds, “I discovered that in Gichugu sub-county, the main public health problem facing the residents was jigger infestation.”
According to the soft spoken student who is set to graduate, the jigger infestation “has led to health problems such as stigmatization, HIV/Aids transmission due to sharing of needles and pins during the removal of jigger flea in households, low self-esteem, school drop outs due to mental retardation caused by jigger infestation and inability to walk because of pain in the limbs.”
He is upbeat he got the opportunity to share his findings on a global platform with his peers and seasoned health professionals across the world during the Network: TUFH conference.
The student learned about the TUFH conference when he was in Zimbabwe last year where he had gone for a medical exchange programme at the University of Zimbabwe, College of Health Sciences, and was attached to the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals through the sponsorship of Global Exchange in Medicine and Health Professions (GEMx).
“Through GEMx, I came to know about the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER) which sponsors students’ project for health winners to attend and present their work at the TUFH Conference,” he explains.
Commenting on what motivated him to undertake the project work on jiggers; his response was brief and clear: “My passion for community empowerment.”
The impact of his project he says is noticeable among the residents of Gichugu Sub-County, through “improved hygiene standards, ability to walk, reduced number of school drop-outs and knowledge on jiggers eradication among the residents.”
At the TUFH conference, the Nursing student says, he learned a number of lessons: “I met professionals from innovative healthcare organizations, educational institutions from all over the world committed to improvement of health in their communities and young inspiring students with wonderful ideas and expertise in their various projects.”
The conference “was a great chance for sharing, learning, networking, opportunities, career development, public health, mentoring, travel, inspiration, leadership and friendship,” he adds.
His fortunes at the conference didn’t end there: “I was elected the Africa Regional Representative of the Student Network Organization (SNO), which works closely with TUFH to incorporate more students into the activities of the network.” Ogutu says.
As the Africa regional representative of the Student Network Organization, Ogutu calls upon other students in Kenya and Africa to join the organization. The student could not find enough words of gratitude for the TUFH conference organizers, GEMx and FAIMER, SNO, University of Limerick, his mentors at JKUAT: Dr. Mutisya Kyalo (School of Nursing) and Dr. Monica Karara (School of Pharmacy) for their great support and guidance; as well as friends and family for their love and support.