With changing patterns of diseases in Africa, it is increasingly important to train young scientists in order to build research capacity across the continent. Research training is fundamental to enabling substantive science in the region, which is valuable for informing health policy and planning in response to the epidemiological transition.
In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has increased substantially, whilst the burden of chronic infectious disease across the region remains high. Due to differences in the social, environmental and biological context, research conducted in Europe and North America is unlikely to translate to African populations. Hence, a need for large-scale comparative and longitudinal studies investigating the prevalence, incidence and risk factors of chronic diseases in Africa. Research capacity building activities in Africa have an important role to play in enabling African researchers to lead and conduct these much needed studies.
Public health and epidemiology training courses are one way to engage with young African researchers. These courses help develop students’ understanding of the current disease burden and the research methods required to measure and interpret the changing patterns of disease in the African context.
In September 2015, the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa (WSPH) hosted its annual short course on Chronic Disease Epidemiology, attracting 40 participants from over ten SSA countries. Fifteen of these places were fully funded by the African Partnership for Chronic Disease Research (APCDR), a research consortium, with member institutes across Africa, the UK and USA. The APCDR facilitates collaborative research of chronic diseases across Africa and is actively committed to supporting young scientists on the continent through a range of capacity strengthening opportunities.
Feedback from course attendees confirmed that training in chronic disease epidemiology is important, and they valued the broad exposure to topics ranging from the social determinants of health, to the role of early life experience, the contribution of genetic factors to chronic disease development and prevention and intervention of chronic diseases in an African context. Joan Mutyoba, from Uganda, reflected that the course was a rich resource for understanding chronic diseases epidemiology within an African context, in particular the interaction between risk factors for HIV and non-communicable diseases.
Opportunities like the Chronic Disease Epidemiology short course are important for raising the profile of chronic diseases in sub-Saharan Africa and building capacity amongst African researchers. It is hoped the course provided a platform for the exchange of research experiences and ideas to facilitate future collaborative activities among course participants and researchers in the field.
The course at the WSPH is offered in collaboration with the School of Health Systems and Public Health, University of Pretoria, and the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, The Netherlands. For more information on this course and future dates please visit: