R56 Million Injected into Strengthening Africa’s Health Research
UKZN’s Professor Fatima Suleman, together with colleagues from the Makerere University College of Health Sciences in Uganda, the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and Stellenbosch University are recipients of a share of a Fogarty grant worth about R56 million for health research.
Suleman is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UKZN; a multiple Principal Investigator of the Developing Research, Innovation, Localization and Leadership in South Africa; Chairperson of the National Medicines Pricing Committee in the National Department of Health; Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity at Utrecht University and Adjunct Assistant Professor (2009-present) and Global Practitioner in Residence at Drake University, Iowa, in the United States.
The funding will be used to help provide leadership for institutions across Africa and to develop a hub to support joint educational activities with a focus on outreach to broad communities and multiple stakeholders. Activities may involve an annual symposium, establishing topical working groups, conducting mentoring activities and developing curricula in Africa.
Funds will go to the African Forum for Research and Education for Health (AFREhealth) over a five- year period to forge the establishment of the African Association for Health Professions Education and Research.
Fogarty believes that AFREhealth is uniquely positioned to become a high impact African health association at the forefront of improving the health and lives of all Africans, while being involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
‘Novel, innovative approaches are required to solve Africa’s complex health challenges of today and tomorrow,’ said Principal Investigator of the project, Makerere University’s Professor Nelson K Sewankambo. ‘The Makerere University-led AFREhealth-centered programme ensures that Africans assume leadership and ownership in building a strong, skilled health workforce and developing effective, efficient systems to deliver quality health services – ones that ensure both access and equity, and are informed by relevant, rigorous research,’ he added.
It is believed that a strong, sustainable AFREhealth will scale up best practices and innovations, mobilise and engage all health professions across Anglophone, Francophone and Lusaphone sub-Saharan African countries. AFREhealth has been widely acknowledged for its success in advancing health professional education and strengthening research capacity in 18 African countries leading to its establishment in 2016.
The overarching goal of the initiative is to encourage activities that prepare an African workforce capable of meeting the biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs in PEPFAR-priority countries with a high burden of HIV/AIDS. Grantee institutions are being supported to expand and enhance innovative education models, evaluate and disseminate best educational practices, introduce and test innovative training approaches including inter-professional education activities, and enhance opportunities for students to conduct locally relevant research as an integral part of their professional training.
Commenting on the award, Suleman said, ‘It is envisioned that South-South partnerships can be strengthened by the development of such a platform, and that an Africa-led and Africa-owned initiative can strengthen initiatives to develop health education and health systems boosting models that are relevant to Africa.’
Words: MaryAnn Francis