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22 September 2019
PLATFORM2013: University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences, studies Rwandan youth and substance use Print
Thursday, 19 December 2013 09:55

University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences (formerly Kigali Health Institute) article in PLATFORM2013 discusses a commissioned study involving stakeholders and beneficiaries that has contributed to the evidence-base needed to begin planning a policy-led campaign against drug abuse among Rwandan youth.

Researcher: Maurice Kanyoni | Researcher and Lecturer | Department of Physiotherapy | Kigali, Rwanda.

(Portrait: Acting-Rector Prof. Chantal Kabagabo)

Research in context
University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences –is one of the government institutions of higher learning that was mandated to train Rwandan health professionals, to improve the health of the communities in the country and beyond,” said Acting-Rector Prof. Chantal Kabagabo when discussing Research Uptake atUniversity of Rwanda – Kigali Campus. “Research and Training in Research are the third of six strategic institutional goals. Currently, KHI is endeavouring to place research in the first priority activities so as to enhance the development of evidence-based decisions and policies, and to work with the government in developing Rwanda’s communities socially, economically and with good health, in line with the country’s Vision 2020 and the Millennium Development Goals. It is in this regard that KHI conducts research such as establishing the prevalence and identifying the risk factors associated with substance use among youth in Rwanda. The Ministry of Youth and ICT are using the results of this research to develop evidence-based campaigns and policies against drug and substance abuse in Rwanda. Additionally, KHI has been research capacity-building in collaboration with the DRUSSA programme and from the skills gained from this have put up a Research Uptake and Research Uptake Management [RUM] strategic plan that facilitates the fostering of the benefits of research findings, so as to reach the ‘end users’ through the use of various research communications and media.”

Status update
Abuse of substances by young people – especially of psychoactive ones – is one of the most disturbing health-related problems among youth globally, and has been a significant worldwide public health concern for many years. Epidemiological surveys in African countries have shown that substance abuse here is indeed common. Furthermore, there is both a decreasing age of onset, and an increasing trend of use of these substances. Young people who get hooked into substances typically begin this treacherous journey by dabbling with ‘gateway’ substances such as alcohol and cigarettes, and later progress to more dangerous ones, potentially including cannabis and cocaine.

The impact of substance use, dependence and abuse by young people is staggering in terms of what it can lead to, including physical injury, illegal activity, poor academic performance and partaking in risky sexual behavior – as well as the high cost to parents, family and the surrounding community. In Rwanda, other than anecdotal accounts, little was previously known about prevalence and types of substances abused and the extent of the problem had not documented. This made it difficult for government and other stakeholders to put effective prevention and rehabilitation measures in place. This study was commissioned in order to inform policy-makers of the gravity of the problem by measuring substance prevalence and identifying associated risk factors among youth in Rwanda. The intention behind this is to provide policy-informing research with scientific data on which policy-makers can base decisions, and formulate policies to combat drug abuse among young people. The Ministry of Youth nominated a contact person for administration procedures of the project and Kigali Health Institute provided researchers to implement the activities of the project. The project started in 2011 and ended in February 2012.

Beneficiaries
The beneficiaries of the results of this study included: Rwanda’s young people, the Ministry of Youth, Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, schools, universities, parents, researchers, civil society and other stakeholders.

Stakeholder relationships
Stakeholders have a network in which information sharing is rapid and smooth. A technical committee is coordinated by the Ministry of Youth and ICTs, and includes technicians from each of the ministries concerned, as well as researchers, parents, former substance abusers, and district youth leaders. This is a forum that facilitates information flow among the diverse participants. ICTs were used for communication, including posting results on ministry websites, and in sending emails and SMSs conveying the impact of drug abuse on youth.

There is also a policy-forum committee constituted of politicians, ministers, members of parliament, police and army chiefs, religious leaders and international organisations. These committees work in synergy, sharing minutes of meetings and resolutions.

Significance
A results workshop was held with an audience of stakeholders, committee members and beneficiaries including youth, civil society, ministries, researchers and others. Care was taken to formulate results so that they were easily understandable and accessible to all, rather than being presented in their original scientific language, which would have excluded non-academic participation, which was appreciated by the diverse audience. The results both contributed to the knowledge base in this field, and acted as a spark plug to carry out further studies related to the problem in the public health domain. The Ministry of Youth and ICT is currently drafting anti-drug policy and laws based on the results of the study.

Policy Influencing
The researcher, Maurice Kanyoni, is part of a team that is in the planning stages of elaborating a national policy and law against substance abuse in Rwanda.Policymakers that the University and researcher would like this research to reach in Rwanda, include:

·      The Ministry of Youth and ICT’s.

·      The Ministry of Local Government’

·      The Ministry of Justice.

·      The Ministry of Social Welfare.

·      The Ministry of Health.

·      The Private Sector Federation.

Join the Research Uptake Conversation
If this piece of evidence-based development research from SSA is of use to you, please continue the Research Uptake Conversation by contacting the University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Website: www.khi.ac.rw

DRUSSA Research Uptake Leader at University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health SciencesDr David K Tumusiime
Director | Lecturer
Directorate Of Research, Ethics And Consultancy
dtumusime@khi.ac.rw

DRUSSA Research Uptake Champion at University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences
Mrs Benoite Umubyeyi
Dean Of Faculty
Faculty Of Nursing Sciences
bumubyeyi@khi.ac.rw

Researcher and PLATFORM2013 article writer
Maurice Kanyoni
Researcher and Lecturer
Department of Physiotherapy 
mkanyoni@khi.ac.rw

PLATFORM2013 in digital
Read this article on pages 40 and 41 of PLATFORM2013 – a print and digital publication from the DRUSSA Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa [SSA] – aimed at accessibly communicating evidence-based development research with the goal of deepening its reach and impact in the region. 

Follow the PLATFORM2013 blog campaign daily until 16 January 2014. You’ll find the blog schedule on PLATFORM2013 articles from the DRUSSA Universities here.

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