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African Academics Visit LIDC to Create New Health Courses

Three African researchers shared experiences with UK academics and gathered information about setting up new courses as part of a multi-million capacity-building project involving LIDC. They were in London in April to discuss the most appropriate content for postgraduate One Health MSc courses to be delivered by African universities.
 
Designing new courses
The academics from Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia visited course directors and researchers at two of LIDC’s member Colleges - the Royal Veterinary College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The discussions from their meetings during their two-week stay will influence the curricula for courses on Analytical Epidemiology, and Molecular Biology of Infectious Diseases, which will cover both medical and veterinary perspectives. This interdisciplinary partnership embodies the One Health approach, which promotes collaborations between human and animal health sectors.
 
International collaboration
The work is being carried out under the auspices of the Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS), a consortium of African universities and research institutes which works in Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo. The two One Health regional MSc courses will be offered by the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania and the University of Zambia.  They will be part of the institutional capacity development activities to be undertaken by SACIDS  in collaboration with RVC and LSHTM . These activities are funded by  a  £6.1 million grant awarded last year by the Wellcome Trust – the UK’s largest charity –  as part of its African Institutions Initiative. Through the participation of academics from RVC and LSHTM, LIDC is heavily involved in the SACIDS network. LIDC will continue with RVC and LSHTM to assist throughout the five-year project with curriculum development and academic collaboration including visits by postdoctoral researchers and PhD students.
 
Reflections on the visit
During his stay in London, Professor Kenny Samui, of the University of Zambia, spoke to UK counterparts about developing the curriculum for the Analytical  Epidemiology course to be taught in Zambia, and how to convert such a course into a distance learning module to be taken potentially by students from across Africa. He said: “The discussions with colleagues at medical and veterinary faculties first in Africa and now in the UK have provided an insight as to how this can be achieved. A committee comprising epidemiologists from LSHTM and RVC has been formed to provide backstopping during course development, delivery and assessment, as well as participate in quality assurance.”
 
Professor Paul Gwakisa, of Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania, discussed developing  course units in One Health Molecular Biology and the prospect of UK researchers visiting Tanzania to teach certain courses. He said: “My interaction with researchers at LSHTM and RVC has made a great difference. It has become possible to make critical preparations that will now enable the launch of the One Health Molecular Biology programme at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania in September 2010.” Dr Luis Neves, of the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique, also met academics to assist with developing the same course.
 
Dr Catherine Fletcher, of LIDC, added:”This visit by African academics represents a major step in developing the partnership between LIDC and  SACIDS, and was a good opportunity for the visitors to exchange views and experience with academics at LSHTM and RVC.  LIDC will be coordinating  future visits to these Colleges by SACIDS-sponsored postdocs and PhD students as the next step in the alliance to build research capacity in African institutions.” 
 
Professor Mark Rweyemamu, Executive Director of SACIDS, Professor at Sokoine University and a Visiting Professor at RVC, confirmed the significance of the partnership. He said: "The emerging strategic alliance between SACIDS, LSHTM, RVC and LIDC is developing  the next generation of world class African scientists, and they will serve to address the heavy infectious disease burden and the threat of emerging epidemic diseases in, and to, Africa."
 
Further reading
For more information about SACIDS visit: http://www.sacids.org/
For more information about the role of LIDC, RVC and LSHTM in SACIDS visit: http://www.lidc.org.uk/news_detail.php?news_id=64
 
By Guy Collender, Senior Communications Officer at LIDC