Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu has welcomed joint efforts to combat Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) with an estimated amount of £10 million in funding for research in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Niger.
NHIR/Global Health Research Centre for NCD
The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), United Kingdom (UK) and the Department of Health and Social Care, UK, have scaled up efforts to combat NCDs. NIHR which is an institution at the forefront of tackling health issues will provide support for the establishment of a Global Health Research Centre for Non-Communicable Disease control in West Africa to address the scourge of NCDs over a five-year period.
The centre will comprise the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) as the co-lead institutions working in partnership with other institutions, namely Ashesi University, 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.
The centre will also develop the skills of local researchers and clinicians and will run a PhD and master’s programme to provide formal training for students in all three countries (Ghana, Burkina Faso and Niger).
Gratitude to funders
The Health Minister, giving his keynote address at the official announcement of NIHR Global Health Research Center for NCD West Africa, (STOP NCD) Award, Tuesday at the Alisa Hotel, said despite an increasing trend in NCD-related morbidity and mortality, implementation of global interventions such as WHO policy recommendations remain slow.
"It appears that despite the initial achievements by African countries towards fulfilling the commitments in the 2011 UN Political Declaration and the 2014 outcome, Africa’s commitment to implementing the NCD policy responses has waned".
According to him, "in Ghana, the Ministry of Health with the support of its Agencies and stakeholders in March 2022 launched the National Policy for Non-Communicable Disease with a goal to ensure that the burden of NCDs is reduced to the barest minimum to render it of little or no public health importance and an obstacle to socio-economic development”.
He therefore believes, the "findings of this all-important collaborative research work" will go a long way in improving 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).
"I wish to further express my gratitude to the funders – The government and the people of the United Kingdom through the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) as well as the National Institute of Health and Research (NIHR) for agreeing to support the research proposal submitted with an amount of ten million pounds over the next five years" he added.
A shift to LMIC-led research
Dr Sylvia Anie, National Institute for Health and Care Research, UK in an address said the “NIHR Global Health Research Centres will provide a sustainable platform for high-quality applied health research in low-and low middle-income countries (LMIC) to address the burden of NCDs and improve health outcomes. It is time to shift the centre of gravity to LMIC-led research.”
On her part, Prof. Irene A. Agyepong, the Director for NIHR Global Health Research Centres West Africa, stated “the fifteen countries of ECOWAS, like most LMICs, are increasingly challenged by rising illness and deaths related to NCDs. This is additional to their long-standing challenges from communicable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. 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”.
Meanwhile, Professor Tolib Mirzoev, Co-Director for NIHR Global Health Research Centres West Africa is "delighted to jointly lead the Stop-NCD programme together with Professor Agyepong from the GCPS". he says "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.”
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% of all deaths globally.
A report by 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% of deaths in 2019, rising from 24% in 2000.
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