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Building capacity for evidence-based healthcare and public health in sub-Saharan Africa
Author: Michelle Galloway
Published: 26/06/2020

The Collaboration for Evidence-based Healthcare in Public Health in Africa (CEBHA+) aims to build long-term capacity and infrastructure for evidence-based healthcare and public health in sub-Saharan Africa, including primary research; evidence synthesis; and, evidence-based policy and practice.

“CEBHA+ adopts a population perspective, encompassing disease prevention and care delivery. The research contributes to the World Health Organisation's Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 3," said Professor Taryn Young, executive head of the Department of Global Health and director of the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care (CEBHC) at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

CEBHA+ is a collaboration involving institutions in Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia and Germany, and is funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research from 2017 to 2022 as part of the Research Networks for Health Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa Funding Initiative.

The African partners include the Armauer Hansen Research Institute in Ethiopia, Makerere University in Uganda, the Universities of Rwanda and Malawi, while the German partners are the University of Freiburg and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. Within South Africa, three CEBHA+ partners work collaboratively to implement project activities – the Chronic Diseases Initiative for Africa, Cochrane South Africa and the CEBHC.

CEBHA+ encompasses research, networking and capacity development. Research includes looking at evidence-based solutions to enhance screening and improve models of health delivery and population-level interventions for hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases as well as uncovering what works for road-traffic accident prevention.

The project promotes closer interactions amongst the African and European partners and brings together African initiatives pursuing similar goals and developing regional capacity. The CEBHC leads the implementation of the capacity development with the focus on enhancing capacity for both the conduct and use of research evidence in public health. Central to the project is integrated knowledge translation.

"For the CEBHC the project enables collaborative work advancing not only research and capacity development for evidence-based public health, but active engagement with decision makers to ensure our research has an impact on policy and practice," said Young.

Highlighting the issues

In March 2020, CEBHA+ hosted its annual networking meeting in Cape Town followed by a national research symposium on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) co-hosted by the South Africa partners and the National Department of Health. This brought together researchers, policy makers and practitioners to exchange knowledge on the prevention and treatment of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease risk factors, and related mental health conditions; identify the knowledge gaps; and, discuss implications for policy and practices.

The Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, described NCDs in South Africa as "heading for a tsunami". He indicated that there are six NCDs in the top-ten causes of death and that "this is not only a health issue but impacts on all levels of social and economic development. NCDs are a major challenge for sustainable development."

Describing the symposium as "a significant milestone in our efforts to prevent and control NCDs" Mkhize pointed to the need for all sectors and government departments to respond.

The symposium featured three parallel sessions – population interventions to address risk factors; risk factors, screening and knowledge translation; and, NCD management. 

"This project is at the forefront of addressing the challenge of the rising burden of disease from NCDs," said Young. “This requires a multidisciplinary approach, engaging with decision makers, conducting regionally relevant research, learning from each other and working together to make a difference in the lives of Africans."

The project has produced a newsletter, conducted workshops, offered masters and PhD fellowships, produced an evidence-based public-health pocket guide, as well as systematic review and primary research papers.

See https://www.cebha-plus.org/

 

Caption: CEBHC director Prof Taryn Young, the South African Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize and Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University.