The Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS) has obtained a £ 10 million grant to conduct in-depth research into the scourge of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the West African sub region.
Awarded by the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the project is expected to inform enhanced prevention, diagnosis and treatment strategies on inter-connected NCDs in three countries; Ghana, Burkina Faso and Niger.
It would span a five-year period and see to the establishment of a “Global Health Research Centre for NCDs control in West Africa, “which would among others coordinate research, provide training and horn skills of clinicians in the effective management of NCDs to improve the general health and wellbeing of the populace.
Co-led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the centre would have other implementing institutions namely; Ashesi University, Ghana; Catholic University of West Africa (UCAO-UUB), Burkina Faso; and Laboratoired’Etudes et de Recherchesur les DynamiquesSociales et le Développement Local (LASDEL), Niger, on the project.
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, in an address, said the research project was timely in the face of high prevalence of NCDs globally, with lower and middle-income countries being worst affected.
According to him, despite an increasing trend in NCD-related mortalities, implementation of interventions by African government had been slow and segregated.
“There are clear indications that a scientific approach by the sub-region is required to improve the health and well-being of the population,” he noted.
Mr Agyeman-Manu said the scope of the project which considers strengthening individual skills and expertise, organisational systems, networking capabilities and leadership of researchers while promoting partnership, would go a long way to support the realisation of the global NCD compact and the 2022 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)resolution on NCDs.
The Minister added that Ghana’s newly developed policy on NCD, aligned with the international goals had an appreciable political commitment to ensure implementation and “there is the need to work collectively across sectors within the frameworks of health-in-all policies to tackle this health and developmental challenge confronting us as a country.”
The Senior Programme Manager at the NIHR, Dr Sylvia Anie said the “Global Health Research Centres” would 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 and this is the only grant awarded that looks at the issue in such in-depth manner,” she noted.
Professor Irene Agyepong, the Director of the Centre noted that the 15 countries of ECOWAS, like most LMICs were 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.”
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.
According to the WHO, of all NCD deaths, 77 percent are in low- and middle-income countries.
Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers (9.3 million), chronic respiratory diseases (4.1 million), and diabetes (2.0 million including kidney disease deaths caused by diabetes).
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH