SCEPRESSA develops capacity for public health professionals in Kenya and Malawi

The research team during a briefing on household level Demographic Surveillance System activities in Kisumu.

A consortium for Strengthening Capacity for Epidemics Preparedness and Response in sub-Saharan Africa (SCEPRESSA), has conducted field visits in Kenya and Malawi carried out between February 2023 and November last year.

According to SCEPRESSA, the twin visits by the researchers under the partnership, “focused on developing capacity for disease outbreak and epidemic response among public health professionals in sub-Saharan Africa, aimed at fostering the project’s strategy of in-field mentored training of epidemiologists.”

The partnership exposed SCEPRESSA – sponsored students to various research activities that provided opportunities to students to network with researchers in partnering institutions.

In November 6 – 10, 2022, students and faculty under the consortium visited the Tropical Institute of Community Health and Development (TICH) and its research associates, namely; Kenya Medical Research Institute/Centres for Disease Control, Health and Demographic Surveillance System, as well as the Centre for Global Health Research in Kisumu, Kenya.

Kisumu visit activities “entailed rural and urban sites to expose students to development, implementation and maintenance of a DSS which is a major tool for community-based epidemiological surveillance.”

Researchers when they visited Centre for Global Health Research in Kisumu, Kenya.

The students learnt how to characterize populations at the community level, register and follow up registered household members over a period of time in order to provide information for health planning and intervention.

Also, the students directly observed collection of data at the household level.  While at the Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR), the students were appraised on management of databases, data analysis and dissemination of research findings.

In February 5 – 11, 2023, SCEPRESSA team visited Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS) in Malawi and its research affiliates which included; John Hopkin Research Project, Welcome Trust, Malaria Alert Centre (MAC), the National Institute of Public Health, University of North Carolina (UNC) Project and Malaria Epidemiology Intervention Research Unit (MEIRU).

During the five days, the team visited laboratories at KUHeS and its research affiliates, clinical trial and disease surveillance field sites.

The labs visited include; COVID -19, Malaria, HIV and TB diagnostic and research laboratories during which, the significant role played by laboratories in the surveillance and management of infectious diseases was demonstrated.

Briefing on Malaria Community Monitoring in Salima District , Malawi.

The visit happened at a time Malawi was experiencing cholera outbreak and this gave the students an opportunity to practically learn the approaches used in the management a cholera outbreak.

In the hard-to-reach rural settings, disease surveillance and management at the community level was done by health surveillance assistants at community and village clinics.

Since diseases know no borders because disease pathogens can be transmitted across geographical borders through movements of humans, animals and goods especially when there is an outbreak, the students were exposed to cross-border disease surveillance activities at Mchinji,  a port of entry at the Malawi – Zambia Border.

To sensitize the students on the continuum of conducting clinical trials, the field work included a visit to the Training Research Unit of Excellence (TRUE) clinical trial facility at Zomba Central Hospital and rural participants’ recruitment sites at various Health Centres.

In their feedback, the students described the field visits as “thought provoking, insightful, experiential, and perfect mentorship.”

The SCEPRESSA project Principal Investigator is Prof. Gideon Kikuvi of JKUAT and Prof. Kamija Phiri, an Epidemiologist from Kamuzu University, is the co-investigator. The project that brings together partners in the Ministry of Health (Kenya), Tropical Institute of Community Health and Development (Kenya) and Kamuzu University of Health Science (Malawi).

Students and faculty at Kamuzu University of Health Sciences in Malawi.

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