The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence for Non-Communicable Diseases(ACE-NCD) hosted by the University of Nairobi (Kenya) is a partnership of five African Universities including the University of Ghana (Ghana), University of Ibadan (Nigeria), Makerere University (Uganda), and University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). The ACE-NCD provides a platform for creation of a long-term strategic network of researchers in African Universities with a focus on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) research. The ACE-NCD builds on the strengths of the core members through a hub and spoke model to strengthen intra-African collaboration, and collaboration between the network and the rest of the world.
The ACE-NCD has received a grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to support and strengthen research capacity among the ACE-NCD universities and their partners in Africa. Part of the grant is available to support PhD students’ research.
ACE-NCD PhD Support Programme
The ACE-NCD PhD programme shall support two PhD students who are about to embark on the research phase of their studies.
Scope of Support
This call targets students currently enrolled in PhD studies in any of the five ACE-NCD member universities. Students must have had their research proposals approved and are near completion of their PhD studies. Funding is available up to £10,000 per project and will be tenable for one year in order to support the students to complete their studies. All work must be completed by September 31, 2021.
Strategic Priorities and Criteria
The proposed PhD research must focus on any one of the ACE-NCD thematic areas outlined below:
- Prevention – Much of the increase in NCDs in SSA is due to rapid unplanned urbanization, deteriorating environments, population ageing, and lifestyle changes such as decreasing physical activity, obesity, tobacco use, and increasing consumption of alcohol and unhealthy foods. Our approach to prevention of NCDs is modelled after the WHO three-pronged approach that includes epidemiological surveillance, primary prevention, and secondary prevention targeted at preventing complications and improving the quality of life through medical, psychosocial and/or economic interventions. Interdisciplinary research shall interrogate the root causes and propose innovative interventions that make efficient use of existing resources.
- Multi-morbidity – There is a high prevalence of NCDs multi- morbidity, ‘the coexistence of more than one chronic non-communicable disease in an individual at any one point’. However its aetiology, mechanisms and pathophysiology is poorly understood, with little data available. NCD health seeking behaviour is symptom driven, thus asymptomatic disease conditions receive very little attention, both at individual level and amongst health systems planners because the need is masked. There is a need to conduct research to understand the social determinants, the magnitude of the problem, characterize it, define pathways of progression of the disease conditions, detect coexistence of and interactions between NCDs and infectious diseases.
- Mechanics of Disease – In order to manage and prevent NCD multi-morbidity in a rational manner, it is necessary to understand the natural history of the contributing diseases and to define the mechanistic underpinnings of how these diseases interact in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Potential mechanistic studies include identification of the key interactions exacerbating the multi-morbid state, mapping of pathways and development of multi-morbid disease models. Epidemiological data can then be used to test these models.
Bio-banking/biomarkers – Africa has, hitherto, been under-represented in the bio-banking revolution with the few available biobanks serving mainly as conduits of samples to the developed countries.
- Models of Care – There has been inadequate efforts in development of prevention, management and control of NCD care models acceptable to the community and policymakers specific to SSA. Management of chronic conditions is a challenge for healthcare delivery systems globally but especially so in low resource settings. Possible projects could include data mining of existing data sets, DHIS2, hospital data and women who have attended ANC (>90%), and/or key informant interviews with government (implementing arm such as county/district health authorities), community and industry to identify possible models of care.
- Big Data – There is inadequate data and trend analysis for the risk factors in nearly all African countries, especially among the target population of adolescents and youth. Developing effective risk-factor interventions for the target population requires current information on both the drivers and the trends particularly of sub-age groups. Even where the data is available, there are substantial variations in how the indicators were collected, and samples drawn across populations. This makes comparison across and learning between different communities and countries very difficult. Large data sets shall form the basis of data-driven research that facilitates evidence-based decision and policy making. Example projects could include investigating avenues for building consensus, at least across ARUA countries on the selection, definition and measurement of a core set of cross-culturally, comparable and appropriate indicators.
- Applicants must be registered for relevant PhD studies in any of the five ACE-NCD Universities (see details of partners below).
- Awards will be made to one (1) female and one (1) male applicant. Female applicants are therefore encouraged to apply.
- Priority will be accorded to applicants aged 35 years or younger. A higher age (up to 38 years) could be considered for female applicants if there are compelling reasons to do so.
What the PhD Support Programme will cover
The ACE-NCD PhD support programme will cover costs directly related to the students research work. This will include travel and fieldwork, lab work, research assistants, and data analysis costs. The funds could also be used to purchase small equipment of not more than UK Pounds 5,000. The funding will not cover tuition costs, living expenses or taxes.
For more details visit the ACE-NCD PhD programme webpage at https://uonresearch.org/acencd-phd/