08 Jul 2019   |   Network update from University College London
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Government minister visits UCL global health researchers


Nicola Blackwood, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, visited UCL this week to meet researchers and learn about their projects addressing global health challenges in low-resource settings.

Baroness Blackwood was hosted by Professor Dame Anne Johnson (UCL Institute for Global Health and UCL Infection & Immunity) and Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, director of UCL Institute for Global Health and Vice Dean International, UCL Faculty of Population Health Sciences.

The visit was part of an announcement of a new multi-million pound partnership between the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Wellcome to fund research tackling major health concerns in low income countries.

The UCL global health projects featured on the visit were already funded by previous NIHR and Wellcome grants.

“I’m delighted that NIHR-Wellcome are extending their Global Health Research partnership. The partnership combines resources and expertise to help address complex issues in low- and middle-income countries.

I’m extremely proud of colleagues at UCL who have already have deployed NIHR-Wellcome funding to improve the health and welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable people.”,” said Professor David Lomas, UCL Vice Provost (Health).

The following researchers spoke about their work:

  • Professor Audrey Prost (UCL Institute for Global Health) is working with India’s National and State Health Missions and the civil society organisation Ekjut to scale up and evaluate participatory community mobilisation interventions to improve women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health in rural India.
  • Professor Rob Heyderman (UCL Infection & Immunity) leads the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Mucosal Pathogens, addressing limitations on the long-term effectiveness of existing vaccines through new approaches in African lower and middle-income countries, focusing on mucosal pathogens causing pneumonia, meningitis, and neonatal sepsis, which account for more than 2 million deaths each year globally.
  • Dr Maryam Shahmanesh (UCL Institute for Global Health and Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa) leads work to develop and evaluate complex sexual health and HIV prevention interventions for adolescents and young adults in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Professor Mike Davies (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) leads research on the systems that connect urban development and health, assisting decision-makers and the public in the UK, France, China and Kenya about areas of development that afford the greatest opportunities for health and sustainability.
  • Dr Guy Harling (UCL Institute for Global Health and Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa) leads research in South Africa to identify who is at highest risk of HIV infection, who influences their behaviours, and whether peer educators can help their friends to take up interventions.  

The new funding scheme, the NIHR-Wellcome Global Health Research partnership, seeks to increase the number of high quality research projects in countries with limited resources.

It will focus on applied health research with patients and communities at its heart, and prioritise research into diseases such as diabetes, heart attacks and cancer, as well as mental health, nutrition, snake bite, and multi-morbidity - where individuals have two or more long-term conditions. Applications are open to researchers based in a university or research institute in a low- or middle-income country or the UK with the majority of the work being conducted in low-resource setting.

The NIHR funds applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid funding from the Department of Health and Social Care.

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “Diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes are a growing problem for ageing populations around the world. Particularly in low income countries where resources are limited and treatment can be less readily available.

“I'm determined to do all we can to improve the lives of the poorest people across the globe and I am delighted we have teamed up with the Wellcome Trust to unlock solutions to some of the biggest problems facing low and middle income countries.”

Jeremy Farrar, Director Wellcome Trust, said: “We are thrilled to join forces with the NIHR to support more high-quality research driven by a diverse range of scientists in low- and middle-income countries.”

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This communication was first published 5 July 2019 by University College London.

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