Dr Uzochukwu Egere, the lead research clinician on the Vaccinology Reach4Kids programme, recently won a highly competitive grant worth $50,000 from the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR).
The grant is part of the IMPACT grant scheme, intended to strengthen capacity for health research that will improve the control of neglected tropical diseases, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
The project is for a period of up to two years and will assess the impact of a Childhood TB Training Programme for frontline health workers on the detection of childhood TB in The Gambia.
Current research has shown that children have a much higher burden of TB than previously believed but recognition of childhood TB remains a challenge.
In most LMICs, non-clinically qualified health workers – who are often over-worked and poorly equipped to recognise the disease – see the majority of children with TB initially. These children could die or remain undetected until the disease becomes severe, if it is not recognised in time. The hypothesis of the research project is that training this particular group of front-line health workers will increase detection of childhood TB in The Gambia.
Based on the experiences with training at the coast already implemented via the childhood TB programme in collaboration with The Gambia National Leprosy Tuberculosis Program, the focus of the project is now to increase the ability of front-line health workers in rural Gambia.
This will be done through administering a ‘home-grown’ specialised training package in childhood TB developed by Uzochukwu and colleagues, to enable them to recognise suspected child TB cases and manage them appropriately. The utility of the training package in increasing detection of childhood TB in the whole of The Gambia will be assessed. It could then be rolled out further in the region and beyond.
The project will commence in March/April 2015 in the Upper and Central River Regions of The Gambia.
On receiving the grant, Uzochukwu said: “I am excited about this opportunity to work with colleagues to impact a highly significant health problem in this country using an instrument we developed within the Childhood TB Programme of the Vaccinology Theme.
“This is an excellent example of locally relevant research where our research work builds local capacity, directly impacts our host communities and country, and consolidates our long-term relationships and collaborations within The Gambia.”