By Christabel Addo – GNA
Accra, March 14, GNA – The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) in collaboration with the WITS Health Consortium and the Navrongo Health Research Centre are organising a symposium on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) in West Africa.
The two-day programme on the theme: “Advancing Non-Communicable Disease Research in West Africa: Building cohorts for multidisciplinary research, including genomic studies”, was part of efforts to promote NCD research activities of junior researchers in sub-Saharan Africa.
It also aims at providing a platform for early career NCD researchers from Ghana and the West African Sub-Region to present their research and learn lessons from ongoing ones, and set the stage for the participants to establish networks and plan future collaborations.
Discussants would look at broad issues such as; setting the research agenda for NCD disease in Ghana: Progress and Potential for the next decade; challenges and opportunities of cohort studies in Africa; ethical issues in genomic research, and making a case for a network of researchers in the field of study.
Professor Dorothy Yeboah Manu, the Head of the Bacteriology Department of the NMIMR, at the opening ceremony in Accra on Tuesday, gave a brief background to the Institute’s work, adding that it had currently expanded its immense work in research into mainly infectious diseases over the years, to cover NCDs owing to the changing trend on disease burden.
She said currently research areas include nutrition, cardiovascular, obesity, diabetes and mental health among others were being widely pursued to ensure solutions to the current trend.
Dr Evelyn Korkor Ansah, the Deputy Director of the Research and Development Division of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), in a presentation, said the country was in transition with regard to disease burden, as illnesses acquired from lifestyle and behaviours were replacing the traditional diseases from infections and malnutrition, with recent evidence indicating a triple burden of NCD and communicable diseases as well as socio-behavioural illnesses.
Ongoing health transition and higher life expectancy, people were generally surviving for longer, bringing to the fore the health needs of the aged, she said.
Dr Ansah said there was the need therefore for a national strategy to identify and address factors that influenced the disease burden, and setting of a research agenda was the first step in the process to provide as roadmap to guide different researchers.
This, she said, would also help in ensuring coordinated research, monitoring and evaluation, sourcing for funding and further contribute to the implementation plans.
She said the GHS had since 1996 developed and reviewed three sets of Health Sector Programme of Works, of which the current Medium Term Development Plan, aimed at bridging the inequality gap, ensuring sustainable financing, improving access to quality institutional care and mental health as well as enhancing national capacity for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Dr Ansah said the GHS had also developed strategies for the review of regenerative health and policy for the aged among others.
Dr Vincent Boima, the Head of the Renal Unit of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, presenting on the H3Africa Project on Kidney diseases among black population, said the increasing rate of the illness in its chronic form in Ghana and the sub-Saharan Africa was very worrying, accounting for greater morbidity and mortality.
He said the research project by the Kidney Disease Research Network, was currently ongoing to clarify the mechanisms responsible for progression, especially in patients with a certain type of gene known as the apolipoprotein (APOL) type one, in order to develop early preventive measures.
He advised the public to avoid risk factors such as the excessive use of unprescribed pain killers, herbal preparations, alcohol and tobacco.
Prof. Ama De-Graft Aikins, the Dean of International Programmes at the University of Ghana, said `research had also shown a high rate of obesity and diabetes type two among urban populations owing to challenges such as poor dietary habits, stressful work, lack of exercise and enough sleep.
She said there was the need for a population-wide approach to reducing risk factors at social and institutional levels including educational, health and workplaces, and also ensure regular awareness creation to ensure credible information, focus those living with diabetes to prevent complications and set clear guidelines to manage treatment and care.