£10 million is given to two UK health organizations to address non-communicable illnesses in West Africa.

With funding of over £10 million for NCD research in Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Niger, the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and the Department of Health and Social Care (UK) have increased their efforts to fight Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). In order to combat the epidemic of NCDs over a five-year period, NIHR, an organization at the forefront of addressing health challenges, will assist the construction of a Global Health Research Centre for Non-Communicable Disease control in West Africa. The center will also operate a PhD and master’s program to offer formal training to students in all three nations, as well as strengthen the abilities of local researchers and physicians.

In addition to Ashesi University in Ghana, Catholic University of West Africa (UCAO-UUB) in Burkina Faso, and Laboratoire d’Etudes et de Recherche sur les Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local (LASDEL) in Niger, the center will be co-led by the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). “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,” said Dr. Sylvia Anie of the National Institute for Health and Care Research in the UK. It is time to shift the emphasis to research led by LMICs.

Chronic illnesses, sometimes referred to as NCDs, are not contagious. Heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease are a few of them. Every year, NCDs claim the lives of 41 million individuals worldwide, or 74% of all fatalities. The worrying number of fatalities from NCDs in Africa was highlighted in a study by the WHO in April 2022. In sub-Saharan Africa, the illnesses were the leading cause of death in 2019, accounting for 37% of deaths, up from 24% in 2000.

By strengthening the capacity for high-quality research to guide improved prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of interconnected NCDs, this initiative seeks to enhance the health and wellbeing of communities (hypertension, diabetes and co-existing stress, anxiety, and depression). According to Professor Faith Osier, president of the International Union of Immunological Societies and chair of the NIHR Global Health Research Centres Funding Committee, “these new centers are truly ground-breaking – it’s the first time we’ve seen anything like this level of investment in non-communicable disease research in low and middle-income countries. The potential for this really fair collaboration between academics in LMICs and the UK is enormous, and we’re quite interested in what the next five years will bring in terms of advancements.

The proposal was welcomed by Prof. Irene A. Agyepong, Director of the NIHR Global Health Research Centres West Africa, who also expressed confidence that the center will help address the problems associated with non-communicable illnesses. The fifteen ECOWAS member states, like the majority of LMICs, are facing growing health problems and fatalities from NCDs. “This adds to their ongoing problems with communicable illnesses like malaria and TB. Establishing the center is a timely and welcome attempt to make a difference because research is at the core of the innovation needed to address these challenges.

The research will significantly enhance the control of non-communicable illnesses, according to Professor Tolib Mirzoev, co-director of the NIHR Global Health Research Centres West Africa. “It gives me great pleasure to co-direct the Stop-NCD initiative with Professor Agyepong from the GCPS. “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,” reads the mission statement for our program, which addresses the critical and urgent need for high-quality research to improve the control of NCDs in West Africa.

On Wednesday, October 4, the project’s formal announcement and debut took place in Accra, Ghana, with Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, Ghana’s Minister of Health, serving as the special guest of honor. The Deputy Secretary General, M. Sabo Hassane Adamou, the Minister of Health for Niger, and Baperman Abdel Aziz Siri, the Minister of Health for Burkina Faso, were also in attendance. The event was attended in Accra by scientists, researchers, and health-related authorities from the UK and many West African implementation nations.