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Family Functioning: A crucial component in the psychosocial context for self-management of individuals with Spina Bifida in Uganda

Spina bifida is a congenital condition that affects thousands of individuals in Uganda. Managing the physical, emotional, and social aspects of this condition can be challenging for both the individuals with Spina bifida and their families. In this article, we will delve into the importance of family functioning in the context of psychosocial self-management for individuals with Spina bifida in Uganda, highlighting examples that showcase the positive impact of a strong family support system.

The Family plays a critical role in the holistic care of individuals with Spina bifida. The support and understanding offered by family members significantly contribute to their overall well-being. In Uganda, where societal attitudes toward disabilities can sometimes be stigmatizing, strong family bonds become even more crucial.

a photo of a baby with Spina Bifida after being operated

Research has shown that individuals with strong family support experience better mental health, self-esteem, and overall satisfaction with life. When the family environment is supportive and nurturing, individuals with Spina bifida are more likely to engage in psycho social self-management practices, such as adhering to medical treatments, participating in therapy, and seeking social connections.

The emotional well-being of individuals with Spina bifida is intricately linked to their family dynamics. Families that openly discuss emotions, provide reassurance, and foster self-acceptance create a safe space for their loved ones to navigate the challenges of living with this condition.

For instance, let’s consider the story of Sarah, a young woman living with Spina bifida in Uganda. Sarah’s family has always been open about her condition and has supported her dreams and aspirations. Their belief in her abilities, combined with their encouragement to pursue education and social opportunities, has empowered Sarah to become a successful entrepreneur. Today, Sarah runs her own business and advocates for disability rights in Uganda, thanks in large part to her family’s unwavering support.

Family functioning should also aim to foster independence and autonomy for individuals with Spina bifida. By providing opportunities for learning, skill building, and decision-making, families can equip their loved ones to become self-managers of their condition, enhancing their overall quality of life.

Ruth Nalugya, National coodinator at SHAU Spina bifida and Hydrocephalus Association Uganda

Opio’s story illustrates the positive impact of a family’s support for independence. Despite facing physical challenges due to Spina bifida, Opio’s family always encouraged him to explore his interests. Through adaptive technology and assistive devices, Opio developed sweater making skills. Today, he runs his own sweater making project in Nothern Uganda and serves as a role model for other individuals with Spina bifida, demonstrating the immense possibilities that exist with a supportive family network.

In conclusion the context of psychosocial context for self-management for individuals with Spina bifida in Uganda, family functioning plays a vital role. Through emotional support, encouragement, and fostering independence, families can positively influence their loved one’s well-being, leading to greater self-management skills and enhanced overall quality of life.

Ugandan families, such as those supporting Sarah and Opio have shown that with strong familial support, individuals with Spina bifida can overcome societal challenges and thrive. Recognizing the importance of family functioning in the self-management process is key to promoting the well-being and success of individuals with Spina bifida in Uganda and beyond.

a photo of a child with Spina Bifida before being operated

We therefore recommend more interventions to maximize familial resilience and adaptation at each level of child’s development, and ensure availability of interventions to support support families as they transfer medical management from parent to child and the transition from pediatric to adult health care.

Written by: Ruth Nalugya, National coodinator and Nabikolo Winfred, Patient Liaison officer at SHAU Spina bifida and Hydrocephalus Association Uganda

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