New IANPHI Grants Will Lead to More Informed Health Policies

IANPHI has awarded eight new grants to seven member countries, funding projects that range from improving perinatal care in Nigeria and controlling arboviruses in Uganda to strengthening Serbia’s ability to respond to public health emergencies. The latest round of grants will assist IANPHI member institutes at different stages of NPHI development— from creating the plans for a new public health institute in El Salvador to learning advanced research techniques to better understand Chagas disease in Mexico. 

New grants include three, two-year seed grants (up to $60,000 USD each) to young researchers and five short-term ($25,000 USD each) capacity-building grants: 

SEED GRANTS:

Nigerian MotherNigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Nwill study the factors influencing community attitudes toward timely perinatal care with the goal of improving maternal and neonatal outcomes. More than 140 women die each day in Nigeria from pregnancy and childbirth complications—the world’s second highest number of maternal deaths. The project, which is expected to be a model for all of Nigeria, will use a 10-step community participation process that has improved perinatal health and outcomes in other developing countries. 


Aedes AfricanusThe Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) will research the ecology, behavior and genetic variability of Aedes africanus arbovirus vector in order to predict the risks of arboviral outbreaks and design more effective disease control strategies such as insecticide spraying and vaccinations. One of the larger goals of the grant is for UVRI to create a mosquito specimen and DNA repository that will provide baseline information for larger research studies relevant to the control of Ae africanus species. Several diseases in Uganda have been traced to Aedes africanus arbovirus spread by mosquitoes including epidemics of yellow fever, Rift Valley fever, dengue, and West Nile virus. 

H. PyloriVietnam National Institute of Hygiene & Epidemiology (NIHE) will use molecular methods to study and identify the cagA gene in H. pylori infected gastric cancer patients. H. Pylori has been shown to be associated with gastric cancer, and NIHE is hoping to determine the role of the cagA gene in H. Pylori. NIHE hopes to get a better understanding of the biological mechanism for gastric cancer in order to provide better diagnosis and treatment options for people in Vietnam, where gastric cancer is the second most common cancer found in men and the third most common in women. 




SHORT TERM GRANTS:

HIV/AIDS
Cote d’Ivoire Institute of Public Health (INSP) to send four faculty members to the University of Washington in Seattle, USA for training on the research principles for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. After the training this summer, the faculty will train the rest of the INSP staff on what they learned with the goal of creating a national research agenda for HIV/AIDS and other STDs in Cote d’Ivoire. INSP is working to increase its capacity in the aftermath of a civil war that resulted in the destruction and disinvestment in the public health sector. An estimated 480,000 people in Cote d’Ivoire have HIV, and INSP is hoping to be the national leader in HIV research to inform evidence-based policy.


El Salvador’s Ministry of Health to complete its 2010-2014 strategic plan to establish a national institute of public health that can generate scientific evidence to address the main chronic and emerging health problems in the country. The creation of a new institute of public health has been high on the list of priorities for Dr Maria Isabel Rodriguez, El Salvador’s Minister of Health, and with the short term grant from IANPHI to develop a strategic plan for the NPHI, her vision is one step closer to reality. IANPHI member FIOCRUZ in Brazil will provide strategic planning assistance. 

T. CruziMexico’s National Public Health Institute (INSP) will train two researchers in molecular strategies to identify the polymorphic genetic markers of Trypanosom cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease. They also will learn to use software to analyze the sequences obtained from the parasites. Chagas is a silent chronic disease affecting marginalized, rural, and poor human populations and has a 10% mortality rate in children and 30-40% in adults. Through further training on the genetic markers of T. Cruzi, INSP hopes to become a leader in population genetics in Mexico and the region, including future population genetics studies of other organisms causing public health problems. 

Serbia’s Institute of Public Health will strengthen its ability to respond to public health emergencies with an emphasis on infectious diseases. The grant will fund staff training for 30 public health experts in emergency preparedness and response and 10 staff in development of a Public Health Emergency Plan and Standard Operation and Communication Plan. Training will be provided by the UK Health Protection Agency. As the recent cholera outbreak in Haiti and earthquakes in Japan, Chile and New Zealand have shown, public health emergencies can have devastating effects on the health of a population. Though many emergencies cannot be prevented, an NPHI can mitigate the effects by having an emergency plan, and trained staff, in place. 

Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) will ensure evidence-based national health policy through new strategies to link research findings to policy makers, and the media. UVRI plans to send selected staff to another IANPHI member NPHI to be trained in effective communication strategies and will establish an information and policy position within UVRI to work with the media and develop a communication strategy. Currently, many research findings don’t reach potential target audiences because they are not conveyed in a simple, relevant language understood by the intended recipients, such as policymakers and the general public. For example, although 410 new HIV infections occur every day in Uganda, policies on HIV in workplaces, provider-initiated HIV counseling and testing, voluntary medical male circumcision, and anti-retroviral drug use for prevention and treatment still are inadequately articulated or implemented. An effective communication strategy will increase the visibility of UVRI within Ugandan Ministry of Health and make it easier for the institution to make policy recommendations based on scientific evidence.