The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) in the United Kingdom (UK), has announced a £10million injection to fund research in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in three West African countries.
This scale-up effort is aimed at combatting the scourge of NCDs over five years – specifically in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Niger.
NIHR will provide support for the establishment of a Global Health Research Centre for Non-Communicable Disease control.
The Centre is expected to, among others, develop the skills of local researchers and clinicians and run Doctorate and Master’s programmes to provide formal training for students in all three countries.
It will comprise the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS) and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) as co-lead institutions working in partnership with other institutions.
These include: Ashesi University in Ghana; Catholic University of West Africa (UCAO-UUB), Burkina Faso; and Laboratoire d’Etudes et de Recherche sur les Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local (LASDEL), Niger.
At the project’s official announcement and launch in Accra, the Senior Programmes Manager-NIHR, Dr Sylvia Anie said: “NIHR Global Health Research Centres will provide a sustainable platform for high-quality applied health research in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC)”.
This, she noted, is to address the burden of NCDs and improve health outcomes, adding that “It is time to shift the centre of gravity to LMIC-led research”.
NCDs – also known as chronic diseases, are not passed from person to person. They include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
Across the world, NCDs kill 41 million people yearly; equivalent to 74 percent of all deaths globally.
A report by the WHO in April 2022 highlighted the alarming rate of deaths from NCDs in Africa – and the NCDs are increasingly becoming the main cause of mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, where the diseases were responsible for 37 percent of deaths in 2019; rising from 24 percent in 2000.
The latest project therefore aims to improve the health and well-being of populations by developing the capacity for high-quality research to inform improved prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of inter-connected NCDs (hypertension, diabetes and co-existing stress, anxiety and depression).
The president of the International Union of Immunological Societies and Chair of the NIHR Global Health Research Centres Funding Committee, Professor Faith Osier, observed that the new Centres are truly ground-breaking, and the first of their kind with this level of investment in non-communicable disease research in low- and middle-income countries.
Furthermore, she added, the potential for this truly equitable partnership working between researchers in LMICs and the UK is immense.
Also, the Director for NIHR Global Health Research Centres West Africa, Prof. Irene A. Agyepong, said the fifteen countries of ECOWAS, like most LMICs, are increasingly challenged by rising illness and deaths related to NCDs.
This is in addition to their long-standing challenges from communicable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.
She therefore noted that research is at the heart of the innovation needed to address these problems, and establishing the Centre is a timely and welcome effort to make a difference.
The Co-Director for NIHR Global Health Research Centres West Africa, Prof. Tolib Mirzoev, also expressed delight in jointly leading the Stop-NCD programme.
“Our programme addresses an important and urgent need for high-quality research to improve the control of NCDs in West Africa. Through excellent science, comprehensive capacity strengthening and equitable partnerships involving research teams and key stakeholders, we will ensure the longer-term legacy of African-led research for improved policy and practice in NCD control,” Prof. Mirzoey added.