“The Africa CDC has made outstanding contributions to tackling epidemics and combating inequities, positioning the organization as the leading public health body on the continent,” The Lancet stated in an editorial. Recently, the Africa CDC, an independent health agency of the African Union, and the IHME joined forces to promote data science and evidence-based decision-making across Africa.
Together, last year, the two organizations hosted four workshops across the continent, jointly training approximately 140 people from 48 African countries, primarily individuals working in ministries of health and national public health institutions.
The fellows concluded the last session of their entire Global Burden of Disease (GBD) training at Africa CDC’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last October. The workshop, which included attendees from Central and North African countries, focused on understanding how GBD study findings can be used to inform policymaking. Training attendees also learn about the science behind the research.
In the workshop, Dr. Awoke Misganaw Temesgen, an IHME faculty member and leader of the Ethiopia Subnational Burden of Disease Initiative, talked about how his country passed laws banning smoking in public places, such as restaurants and public transportation, because of the found in the GBD study. . In Ethiopia, tobacco use is one of the top 15 leading risk factors for death. Another way Ethiopia translates data into action, explained Dr. Awoke, is to reassess its health budget. About a tenth of the country’s health budget goes to non-communicable diseases, but non-communicable diseases account for a third of the disease burden according to the GBD study. As a result, the country has developed interventions to address non-communicable diseases.
Participants brainstorm ways they can use the findings from the GBD study to shape policy decisions in their own countries. Representatives from the Democratic Republic of the Congo focused on the GBD findings on maternal and newborn disorders as the main cause of early death and poor health in the country. To improve the health of expectant parents and newborns, they recommend strengthening health care during pregnancy and childbirth, reducing infections during pregnancy, and improving maternal nutrition.
Participants from São Tomé and Príncipe, the small island nation located off the coast of Gabon, focused on cardiovascular diseases, the country’s leading killer. For policy interventions to prevent deaths from this cause, they suggest programs to prevent tobacco use, promote healthy diets, and encourage exercise.
Following the workshop, African CDC representatives met with the Independent Advisory Committee (IAC), the group that advises the IHME Board of Directors on the GBD study. Africa CDC presented information about their partnership with IHME and described the workshops they are co-hosting for health professionals across Africa. IAC is enthusiastic about the collaboration with IHME and Africa CDC and encourages the partners to continue to grow and deepen their work together.
Building on the successful workshop series, IHME and Africa CDC discussed new ways of collaboration, such as supporting Africa CDC’s efforts to improve the quality of health data in each African region and expanding access to educational opportunities for public health professionals on the continent.