Blog: Our newest Cairdeas Scholar: Vicky Opia

Hannah Ikong
19th September 2023


Vicky Opia is a registered nurse trained in palliative care who leads the work in palliative care in Adjumani district. Cairdeas IPCT has been proud to work with Vicky Opia and her organisation of Peace Hospice on several research and training projects in Northern Uganda (see more details in the video above!). We are also excited to announce that Vicky is the newest Cairdeas Scholar, and she is pursuing a Masters in Public Health. 

Vicky’s semester at Gulu University has just started this autumn when I was able to talk to her about her new studies. In her going back to school, Vicky is eager to broaden her work at Adjumani Hospital and at her organisation Peace Hospice Adjumani through the Masters degree. 

Adding public health to her current palliative care work is part of her plan to engage the community more in general wellness and prevention. “When I attained the Bachelors in Palliative Care,” she told me, “I was able to do a lot of work in my community, such as the integration of palliative care in the health systems, and training the family caregivers, VHTs and healthcare workers. But I realised that I was focusing on those who are sick; I was not focusing on the whole community and the preventive aspect of healthcare, addressing the social determinants of health. I realised that within a lifetime, poor health management can lead to someone with hypertension and diabetes, then they may become a patient who needs palliative care.”

Expanding palliative care to include prevention and community education of public health concerns are some of Vicky’s goals as she studies Public Health. Vicky noted that with public health, she will be able to explore more of the health policies and governance of Uganda. Citing a gap between the health policies currently made in Parliament and the implementation and adherence in communities, Vicky explained her approach: “We need to have policymakers who not only make policies but ensure that they are being used, like for policies to do with alcohol and cigarette smoking. The people now who are making policies are not coordinating well with the community, and so the policies are not effective. I want to bring the community into the policymakers and make the policies from the bottom-up; unless you involve the community into the policies, nothing will move and they won’t understand them.”

Lastly, we spoke about the continued need for research in the communities’ general health and with palliative care. Research is the foundation of providing accessible and quality palliative care as well as addressing community health. “In our particular community, there is a lot of liver cirrhosis, and we are realising that alcoholism is causing this,” Vicky shared with me. “Public Health can help me research, why is alcoholism occurring so much in the community? Or with the issue of abandonment; why in a community and culture that is community-based, are those with chronic illnesses being abandoned? Right now as I talk, there is a man abandoned in the hospital who has HIV; yet before he became sick, he was well placed in society and wealthy. Other issues or questions like this will come into play as I continue my studies.”

We look forward to seeing the interface of palliative care, public health and policies, as well as research with Vicky Opia. Best wishes to our newest Cairdeas Scholar in her degree!

Our newest Cairdeas Scholar: Vicky Opia