School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Student Profile

James Obol
PhD - Cervical cancer screening in two districts of Acholi sub-region in Uganda: Accessibility, uptake and challenges to services
Mode of study : 
Full-time
Country : 
Uganda
Previous Education : 
Bachelor Biomedical Laboratory Technology (BBLT – Mak), Master Science in Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (MSc CEB – Mak) Makerere University

The School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW offer a conducive research environment for students who want to gain both knowledge and skills in designing and conducting cutting edge research which have great impact on the lives of the vulnerable members in society.

Summary of research project

My research project focuses on cervical cancer in Northern Uganda because cervical cancer accounts for 40% of all cancers in Uganda. Furthermore, 80% of women in Uganda are diagnosed with cervical cancer when the disease is in stage III or IV. Therefore, my study will investigate the availability of cervical cancer policy by conducting key informant interviews with key stakeholders in Uganda. The output from this study will be a draft policy on cervical cancer for endorsement by the Ministry of Health in Uganda. Secondly, the study also investigates health workers’ knowledge, perception, attitude, availability and accessibility of cervical cancer prevention services in rural health facilities in Northern Uganda. This study is significance because it will provide information on availability and accessibility of cervical cancer screening services in the health facilities in Northern Uganda. Secondly, the Uganda Ministry of Health has reported low knowledge about cervical cancer among health workers who should be providing health education to the community. Through this study, we hope to intervene by providing in-service trainings for health workers and equipping health centres level III or IV so that nurses, midwives and clinical officers can perform cervical cancer screening using visual inspection with acetic acid and treat precancerous lesions detected using cryotherapy. This will ensure that women are provided with these preventive services which are lacking in all the rural health facilities. This will save the lives of many vulnerable women who have no access to health facilities in urban areas. Thirdly, I will test whether health education intervention delivered by peer health educators about cervical cancer will improve knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy and normative beliefs of women living in rural Northern Uganda about cervical cancer. Furthermore, I will assess if improvement in knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy and normative beliefs of the women leads to the uptake of cervical cancer screening by women aged 25 – 49 years in Gulu and Pader districts, Northern Uganda. All these studies have been conceptualised based on three theoretical approaches which are Social Ecological Model, the Health Belief Model and Transtheoretical Model of Change.

Enjoyed most about research program

I have been having weekly meeting for one hour with my supervisors discussing issues related to my study. Through this meeting, the task for the next meeting is agreed upon through consensus and this allows for checking of my progress. My supervisors are really a team of supportive people and because of their guidance, I managed to undergo confirmation review within the first six months of my enrolment into the PhD.

Message to newly commencing students

My message to newly commencing students is to listen to the advice of your supervisors and be flexible to change. Quite often we join our PhD study with some preconceived ideas and when you discuss this idea with your supervisors, new ideas will emerge.  You should not think the supervisors are diverting you from your ideas. They are helping to shape your study so that you conduct credible research. Secondly, undertaking a PhD by research requires you to be motivated to drive the process and this means you must be disciplined and time conscious for every task assigned to you.

How degree will assist in career

I am a senior lecturer from Gulu University and the PhD degree will enable me to gain knew knowledge and skills to enable me to supervise PhD students and provide the best supervision as I have received from my supervisors from UNSW. Secondly, I will use the knowledge and skills acquired to apply for grants and conduct cutting edge research to solve health problems in Uganda and other countries through collaboration. The PhD makes one become a leader in their society and through this, I will be able to help guide society in fighting diseases of poverty and life-style which are all abundant in our society today.