Ogweno Stephen emerged the youth of the year in the recently concluded top 35 under 35 awards where he won under the health category. This award comes after years of service innovation and contribution by Ogweno Stephen in the health care industry. Ogweno Stephen is the founder of Stowelink Inc, an organization that aims at improving literacy and access to diagnostic services for non-communicable diseases across the continent. More than that Ogweno has speared innovation in the health space including the development and implementation of 8 successful health projects, development of the NCDs 365 innovation suite which consists of a mobile application and games aimed at enhancing NCDs literacy, the development of the NCDs module and course just to mention a few. Ogweno also continues to contribute to the scientific field through his published research papers and books.
Through this award and recognition, Ogweno aims to raise the caliber of youths in aspects of health and leadership, inspire more youth entrepreneurial action especially in the health field and inspire youth development and transformation. This he will do continuously through mentorship, working with youths in his projects and organizations, championing for and advocating for youth opportunities and developing new platforms and ways to engage the youth either through his books or online courses and webinars.
About the awards
In 2020, The Youth Agenda under its grand Youth Empowerment Programme, a programme whose theme is to transform the youth “from a demographic challenge to demographic dividend”, fronted the first ever youth awards in Kenya since its independence.
The award branded as the Top 35 under 35 Awards targets to award exemplary youth across various sectors or categories. It takes place annually on the International Youth Day (IYD). (Every year the world celebrates the International Youth Day on 12th August. Each year comes with its theme from the Global UN headquarters).
The awards are part of the major youth empowerment programme which is a complete mentorship and engagement of youth for a one-year period. The awarded youth undergo a six months mentorship at the Youth Agenda Leadership Academy and later linked to three mentees each from their original counties for a maximum of six months. In the midst of mentorship, the awardees also undertake a community service activity in one county.
This was one of the best days of my life yet, graduating from an incredible programme that has changed my life in very fundamental ways. Through this programme I have learnt the essence of leadership, awareness and resilience.
Here are some of the top tips for you to stay mindful through the day that I learnt in my time in the programme:
Meditate. Taking even just 5 minutes to sit quietly and follow your breath can help you feel more conscious and connected for the rest of your day.
Focus On One Thing At A Time. Studies have found that tasks take 50% longer with 50% more errors when multi-tasking, so consider “uni-tasking”, with breaks in between, whenever possible.
Slow Down. Savor the process, whether it’s writing a report, drinking a cup of tea, or cleaning out closets. Deliberate and thoughtful attention to daily actions promotes healthy focus and can keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
Eat Mindfully. Eating your meal without the TV, computer or paper in front of you, where you can truly taste and enjoy what you’re eating, is good, not only for your body, but for your soul as well.
Keep Phone and Computer Time In Check. With all of the media at our fingertips, we can easily be on information overload. Set boundaries for screen time – with designated times for social networking (even set an alarm) – and do your best to keep mobile devices out of reach at bedtime.
Move. Whether it’s walking, practicing yoga, or just stretching at your desk, become aware of your body’s sensations by moving.
Spend Time In Nature. Take walks through a park, the woods, mountain trails or by the beach – wherever you can be outside. Getting outdoors is good for body, mind and spirit, and keeps you in the present.
This graduation marks the beginning of my lifelong fellowship in the Dalai Lama Programme and what an exciting journey that will be!
Ogweno Stephen was recently featured in this year’s second edition of the Winners Features, a publication by the Quality Health Care Kenyan Awards for winning this year’s student innovation project of the year under The Drug Free Youth Project that we developed and jointly implemented with Stowelink Inc at Kenyatta University and other universities and learning institutions.
The Drug Free Youth Project educated young people in primary schools, high school, and colleges on the effects of drugs and substance abuse linking these effects to academics, performance and non communicable diseases such as cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Implemented in 2019, the project used extremely innovative approaches to put this message out through use of outdoor learning sessions, social media, poetry, board games and the drug free youth poetry book. The Drug Free Youth Project was conducted by a team of students from Kenyatta University School of Public Health led by Ogweno Stephen and included Ayallo Harizon, Oduor Kevin, Feddy Collins, Nayla Chebet, Noel Museshi Murunga, Owinyo Victor and Victor Kariuki. The project reached 14,870 students in 7 primary schools, 5 high schools and 4 universities in Nairobi.
The first of its kind in Kenya, Quality Health Care Kenyan Awards (QHKA) has taken on the mantle and seeks to change the narrative and showcase impact of the positive contributions on the Kenyan health sector for scalability and sustainability. The initiative takes a health system strengthening approach to improve standards of health service delivery among health professionals by recognizing outstanding performance, fostering innovation and the use of information technology, sharing of best practice, uniting the public and private sectors towards a common goal and creating a platform for collaboration.
Last week we finally launched the ONLINE COURSE: NCDs FOR PUBLIC HEALTH on UDEMY, the world’s largest provider of online courses. In an exciting partnership between Stowelink Inc, Talanta Institute, Tujuze Learning and NCD Champions we developed and released this beginner’s self-paced course that aims at introducing the learners to concepts about non communicable diseases for public health.
Besides addressing what non communicable diseases are, how to manage and prevent them, the course also discusses contemporary issues related to NCDs including NCDs in the context of human rights, climate change and antimicrobial resistance.
We have made the course FREE for the first 1000 students and we already have 311 students taking the course. Visit the link below to access the course today.
This course is a very important part of my contribution to the NCDs space as it aims at improving NCDs literacy among various communities. Share with your networks today and lets together develop a generation on NCDs literate society.
Interactive Patient Advocacy Programme (IPAP) advocacy training is a training conducted by the European Coalition for People living with Obesity (ECPO) that aims at taking you, the learner through the process of advocacy by simplifying the key steps, from identifying and prioritizing the issues, to implementing an advocacy action plan. The training also helps you better understand our audiences and tailor your messages to engage them and inspire their support.
In this year’s cohort Ogweno Stephen was one of the participants who went through this intensive training to gather more knowledge and insight on advocacy in the obesity space and ultimately the wider NCDs space.
So, what are some of the key insights in advocacy especially in the obesity space?
Successful advocacy endeavors have to be structured and planned before hand to ensure ease of implementation and to cover any blind spots that might arise.
Especially when it comes to obesity, respecting your audience is very important as a result incorporating people first language for obesity is a great way to ensure the audience feels respected and engaged.
There is no one way formular to advocacy, advocacy could simply be sharing your story, educating your community, starting a YouTube channel, and even drafting policies, best practices and suggestions for governments and industries to act on.
Finally, WHO ARE ADVOCATES FOR OBESITY (&other NCDs)
Advocates are organizers
Advocates are people with lived experience
Advocates are regular people
Advocates recognize advocacy takes many shapes and forms
The International Festival of Public Health is a global gathering that bringing together hundreds of delegates from across the world in a wide range of fields in public health to present their research work and attend plenary lectures from special guest speakers in the world of public health. This festival is organized by the Manchester Urban Collaboration on Health which includes the university of Manchester.
In this 9th festival, Ogweno Stephen was glad to be among the speakers who presented their work in the public health space in this global audience. Ogweno presented on the NCDS 365 PROJECT: EDUCATING 2.4 MILLION PEOPLE IN 8 COUNTRIES ON NCDS DURING COVID 19 ERA THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY FOR HEALTH.
Here is a summary of the background to the presentation
“Getting the right information on non-communicable diseases and accessing primary care for NCDs prevention and management in Africa continues to be challenging . How do we educate people on non-communicable diseases and reduce NCDs illiteracy and myths? This is the new challenge that we aimed at solving in 2020. In the same year, COVID 19 became a reality and people living with NCDs were at the highest risk of not only contacting but developing severe complications from the disease. The NCDs 365 project was developed as a result to educate communities on NCDs through an integrated approach of community trainings, social media and tech for health in a bid to improve NCDs literacy in Africa.”
Participating in such global audiences and sharing best practices is one effective way of sharing best practice and knowledge and as a result ensuring that the world continually gets better.
Ogweno Stephen was recently featured in the University of Manchester Biology, Medicine And Health Student Blog where he was discussing how his current studies in Global Health have helped him amplify the work in the non-communicable diseases space.
When asked how the Masters In Public Health had helped his career, here was his response:
Besides being a student at Manchester, I am the founder and CEO of Stowelink, an organisation focused on improving literacy and access to early diagnostic services for NCDs. We do this actively through community projects, quarterly medical camps and research, and by leveraging mobile health technologies and innovation.
Through these projects, Stowelink aims to educate communities on the major NCDs and their risk factors. To date, Stowelink has been able to reach over 3.5 million people both online and offline, receive local and global recognition for their innovation and in 2020 expand its impact and partners through the NCDs 365 project to 8 African countries.
I also consult with the World Health Organization (WHO) under the NCD labs project, where I was appointed to the board in charge of the NCDs and the Next Generation thematic area.
As a current student working in the NCD space and the mobile health sector, as well as with young people, the course has enabled me to learn and solidify concepts in these subject areas. One of my favourite units from the course has been Digital Public Health, which has really helped us improve on some aspects of the mobile health intervention that we are currently implementing in Kenya.
“We Have a Dream: 201 Countries, 201 Dreams with Sustainable Development Goals”, is a book which has been published in Japanese and English by Iroha Publishing in Japan. This book contains global co- authors each representing all the 201 countries of the world. Kenya was represented by Ogweno Stephen who shared his story titled TAKE ACTION.
The book, which is the brainchild of One Young World Ambassadors from Japan and Directors of the Word Dream Project, Mr. Taichi Ichikawa, and Ms. Ibun Hirahara, is designed to showcase the stories and dreams of global young leaders and create a platform where people from across the world can learn from each other. The book also places keen emphasis on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015. Every dream expressed in the book is linked to at least one SDG, which highlights how young people are playing their part to tackle global issues, whilst contributing to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In his story Take Action, Ogweno reflects on how he had to take action to make this world a better space by tackling a health care challenge in the non-communicable diseases space. Having seen firsthand the effects of living with non-communicable diseases and acting as a caregiver to individuals living with non-communicable diseases, Ogweno Stephen reflects on how he began to act on this space. He also reflects on the disappointments he faced along the way and reminds other entrepreneurs and change makers that disappointments are very much a part of the journey to success. He however insists that you have to take action and take action continuously to be able to reaize change. Change never happens by just thinking about it, change happens by taking action.
In many parts of Africa, if you’re obese, people will say ‘you look healthy’”. Culture and perceptions matter in the fight against obesity across the continent, said Dr Jean-Claude Mbanya at an event organised by World Obesity Federation .
Eating habits have changed dramatically and led to a more calorific diet across the continent. Dr Mbanya pointed out the evolution of nutrition, in quantity and quality. “When we were young, we had rice once a year at Christmas.” He said. With an increased use of fat, “cooking methods have also changed.”
Obesity is a risk factor for many non-communicable diseases, including diabetes. Non-health sectors (education, retail, etc.) need to be part of the fight, said Francesco Branca from World Health Organization.
The influence on culture on obesity perceptions in Africa is clearly a huge issue that needs to be investigated further. Ultimately intervention on obesity will take the work of committed advocated who more than just having information, address obesity through a cultural lens as well putting the people at the center of advocacy and education on obesity in Africa.
The Africa Young Innovators for Health Award has launched its first competition this year designed to highlight and support the work of pioneering young African entrepreneurs developing health innovations. We have received entries for solutions aimed at supporting, equipping, protecting, and training healthcare workers, who are on the frontline of delivering healthcare to communities. It is for this reason that in its first edition, the Award will focus on supporting innovations that can make a real difference to healthcare workers. These innovative approaches need to leverage the complementary expertise of both the public and the private sector.
After 4 years of active planning, prototyping, and investing time and energy and resources and two years of active implementation, the NCDs 365 app and project have been nominated for the young innovators for health award. As the leader and developer of this project, this is a very special moment for me and the team that we work with as we have worked tirelessly aiming at improving NCDs care and literacy across the world. With this ambitious project we have managed to have 31 partnerships spanning 10 countries in Africa and getting our content translated into 4 languages in order to continue educating communities on what on communicable diseases are.
This nomination and now reaching the to 15 finalists is such a big thing for us and it’s a testament that if you have a crazy idea, put it into action and if you are passionate about making a difference then take up the challenge. With the NCDs 365 project we now have launched an app, we have a series of board games, we have developed and shared 365 NCDs messages over the past year and this year we will be sharing 54 animated videos for NCDs, such an ambitious project especially if you consider that there is no external funding that has come our way for this project. Anyways, the overriding message I hope to share through this nomination is this: if you are passionate about something, if you have a crazy idea, if you are committed to doing something, then do it, do it afraid, do it imperfect but just do it and trust that in some special way, the universe is seeing your contribution and it will reward you in kind in due time. But even if it does not, because this is your passion, you do it and do it and do it until the job gets done!