Researchers receive £9.8m to tackle the rising challenge of non-communicable diseases in West Africa

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine are teaming up with the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons to tackle the rising challenge of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in West Africa.

Across the world, NCDs - which include conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer - kill 41 million people yearly, equivalent to 74% of all deaths globally. A report by the World Health Organization in April 2022 highlighted the alarming rate of deaths from NCDs in Africa, and they are increasingly becoming the main cause of mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, where the diseases were responsible for 37% of deaths in 2019, rising from 24% in 2000.

West Africa faces a growing burden of NCDs and co-existing mental health disorders, and disease control priorities in the region have been traditionally driven by infectious diseases, such as malaria. There is an urgent need for capacity to conduct high-quality research to inform effective, evidence-based and people-centered approaches to NCD control, adapted to West African settings.

Thanks to funding of £9.8m from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), researchers will address this challenge with the creation of the NIHR Global Health Research Centre for Non-communicable Disease Control in West Africa. Researchers will work in partnership to carry out a five-year 'Stop-NCD' program. This aims to improve the health and wellbeing of populations by developing capacity for high-quality research to inform improved prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of inter-connected NCDs - hypertension, diabetes and co-existing stress, anxiety, and depression.

Tolib Mirzoev, Professor of Global Health Policy at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Co-Director of the Centre, said: "I am delighted to jointly lead the Stop-NCD program together with Professor Agyepong from the GCPS. Our program addresses an important and urgent need for high-quality research to improve the control of NCDs in West Africa. 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.

"I hope that the work of our Stop-NCD Centre will help the key stakeholders in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Niger, address critical questions to improve NCD control in West Africa, but will also provide us with a useful platform to leverage, and extend, our genuinely equitable partnership developed over many years of working together. We have a strong team with complementary expertise across five organizations, and I have full confidence we can successfully deliver high quality results to inform improved policy and practice."

The 15 countries of ECOWAS, like most LMICs, are increasingly challenged by rising illness and deaths related to NCDs. This is additional to their long-standing challenges from communicable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. Research is at the heart of the innovation needed to address these problems, and establishing the centre is a timely and welcome effort to make a difference".

Irene Agyepong, Centre Co-Director, Professor, Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS)

The NIHR Global Health Research Centre for Non-communicable Disease Control in West Africa is co-led by the GCPS and LSHTM, working in partnership with other institutions in the region, including Ashesi University, Ghana; Université Catholique de l'Afrique de l'Ouest - Unité Universitaire at Bobo-Dioulasso (Catholic University of West Africa), Burkina Faso; and Laboratoire d'Etudes et de Recherche sur les Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local (Research Laboratory on social dynamics and local development), Niger.

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