Effects of Coronavirus Pandemic on Young Adults’ Ability to Access Health Services and Practice Recommended Preventive Measures

  •  Judith Nalukwago    
  •  Bolanle Olapeju    
  •  Anna Passaniti    
  •  Musa Kimbowa    
  •  Arzum Ciloglu    
  •  Glory Mkandawire    
  •  Richard Kabanda    
  •  Douglas Storey    


Given the limited attention to young adults as key contributors to the spread of COVID-19 in Uganda, this study examines the effects of the outbreak on the ability of young adults aged 18-29 to access health services and practice preventive measures. A national population-based mobile phone survey was conducted in December 2020. Multivariable regression analyses were used to explore the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to health care services. Control variables included region, education level, parity, and source of health information. The majority (98%) perceived COVID-19 as a serious threat to Ugandans. Although the majority reported handwashing (97%) and masking (92%), fewer respondents avoided shaking hands (39%), ensured physical distancing (57%), avoided groups of more than four people (43%), stayed home most days (30%), avoided touching eyes, nose, and mouth (14%), and practiced sneezing/coughing into their elbow (7%). Participants noted that the COVID-19 pandemic affected their ability to access family planning (40%), HIV (49%), maternal health (55%), child health (56%), and malaria (63%) services. The perceived effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on services was higher for those in the Northern region (OR= 2.00, 95% CI 1.00-4.02), those with higher education OR= 2.26, 95% CI 1.28-3.99), those with five plus children (OR= 2.05, 95% CI 0.92-4.56), and those who trust radio for COVID-19 information (OR= 1.65, 95% CI 1.01-2.67). The findings show the pragmatic importance of understanding the dynamic characteristics and behavioral patterns of young adults in the context of COVID-19 to inform targeted programming.

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