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HSPH Key Partner in U.S. Program to Improve Medical Education, Clinical and Research Capacity in Africa

November 3, 2010 — Harvard School of Public Health is a partner in a recently awarded $130 million program announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) to improve medical education and build clinical and research capacity in African countries over the next five years.

This Medical Education Partnership Initiative, funded by the National Institutes of Health, supports 12 African universities and their U.S. partners, building on funding and projects already under way through PEPFAR, a global plan funded by the U.S. for HIV prevention, care and treatment. The intention is to support PEPFAR’s goals of increasing the number of new health care workers in Africa by 140,000, improving medical instruction and retention of faculty, and developing expertise in these countries to eventually manage their own medical research enterprises.

HSPH is a partner on project grants to the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and to the University of Botswana. The new grants provide roughly $2 million each year for five years to each of these partnerships.

“Many African populations are in need of even the most basic of health and prevention services. If we are to truly make a long-term difference in the health of Africans, we need to address both the severe shortage of African health care workers and the need to improve graduate and post-graduate training of African-based health care professionals,” says Richard G. Marlink, the Bruce A. Beal, Robert L. Beal, and Alexander S. Beal Professor of the Practice of Public Health, and HSPH principal investigator of the Botswana/HSPH/University of Pennsylvania consortium. “These grants will go a long way toward helping address these needs through our expanded education and research partnerships between universities.”

Marlink is the Executive Director of the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative (HAI), which in 1996 helped create the Botswana-HAI Partnership for HIV Research and Education to combat the AIDS epidemic in Botswana. The new grant aims to create sustainable medical education and health research capacity in Botswana. Goals include strengthening medical education at the University of Botswana School of Medicine to increase the number of health care workers and quality of health services and research in the region.

Leveraging the successes of AIDS prevention methods in Senegal, Phyllis Kanki, professor of immunology and infectious diseases, established and leads the AIDS Prevention Initiative in Nigeria (APIN) program in Nigeria, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. APIN worked to develop and scale-up effective HIV prevention programs including prevention of mother to child transmission. In 2004, the Harvard School of Public Health’s PEPFAR program began in Botswana, Tanzania and Nigeria, led by Kanki.

Kanki is HSPH’s leader of the University of Ibadan effort to revamp their medical curriculum and create more research opportunities. “This grant will provide a wonderful opportunity to work with our longstanding partners in Africa to support education and research efforts for AIDS and other diseases,” says Kanki. The Nigeria program will be developed by a unique consortium, including the University of Jos, the University of Nigeria, the University of Maiduguri, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Lagos, the AIDS Prevention Initiative Nigeria Ltd., the Northwestern School of Medicine and HSPH. All institutions making up the MEPIN consortium have been long-term development partners in the Harvard PEPFAR program, which supports treatment and care for over 100,000 patients. “It will provide the critical foundation for the continuity and sustenance of prevention, care and treatment to so many in need,” Kanki says.

–Ellen Barlow

More information

Link to National Institutes of Health press release

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