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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Uganda Government does not support young Innovators

Young innovators at the 2015 CAMTech Medtech hack-a-thon
By Esther Nakkazi

For five straight years, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) has been holding medical technology or Medtech Hack-a-thons.

The Mbarara University style is like it all starts in the evening with a cocktail reception and dancing through the night.

By 8.00 am the next day, the youngsters mostly undergrads, form teams comprised of different disciplines - engineers, clinicians, entrepreneurs, nurses and at the 5th hack-a-thon they even had villages health workers as part of some of the teams. That is all inclusive!

Thereafter, they pitch an idea targeting a medical problem. Teams have 48 hours to come up with a prototype.

At this point the hack-a-thon room visibly has unbelievable energy, discussions, prototype materials, the coffee and snacks table is equally busy, soft music is in the back ground as well mentors are at hand to guide the young innovators.

At the end of this exercise, a jury awards the best and most innovative products with a cash prize and other awards. The Kangroo+ team with an innovation that modifies traditional kangaroo care by combining a thermometer and skin-to-skin contact won this 5th CAMTech UGANDA Medtech Hack-a-thon and took home $782 and access to webinars and peer-to-peer learning engagements.

By all means these gatherings are fancy for young people, they may put in long hours but equally reap from it so much more. They all eventually become innovators, become better thinkers, learn something new, meet new people and we suppose that they network and collaborate beyond the event.

Year after year, I travel to Mbarara University to document and see what happens at these hack-a-thons. I have seen these hack-a-thons grow bigger as the numbers that apply to attend also increases. This year had 250 participants, in 2015 they had 220, 2014 and 2013 had 150 and 100 participants respectively.

Unfortunately, as the numbers of interested students ready to come up with new innovations grows bigger the local sponsors become fewer. Save for government officials coming over to open and close these, the government is not injecting money in such events.

I also know that for this years budget, the government committed 30 billion Uganda shillings or $8.5m to support innovations and technology but these funds will be to aid innovators and researchers to commercialise their products. Unfortunately, these are not for young innovators.

You would expect local companies to be interested in ‘putting money in what they can see’ as the Ugandan saying goes but no. This time even the usual suspects like mobile phone companies and Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), which is supposed to champion such declined.

Instead you see them falling over themselves to sponsor the KCCA carnivals, where people go to drink, dance and wine, you wonder where our priorities are placed.

The lack of local funding of such events, which are for young people who are coming up with new innovations that will solve critical health care problems underscores the Uganda government’s claim to care for innovations, new ideas, the youth and finding ways to engage them and make them productive.

How do we even explain that the prize money is down from $3,000 to $2,000 and all this year after year has to come from the Boston based Mass General Hospital Global Health? Surely, no one can realise that at some point these kids will come up with an innovation - either a medical device or an app that can unlock a healthcare problem forever?

I do not want to see these Hack-a-thons that are based at universities stop or the energy and talent in those rooms burn out. I suppose that they are cheap because they are hosted in universities as opposed to fancy hotels.

It is also great that every year we see new faces, hear new ideas and that these hack-a-thons champion diversity. And many products from Mbarara University’s innovations ecosystem will be in the healthcare space soon like Sanidrop, a locally made hand sanitiser that is yet to be commercialised - and again this has been delayed by a government agency that can’t do its work.

So I suggest that next year, a crowd fund should be set up so that the Mbarara University alumni and anyone like me who cares for innovation and healthcare in this country contributes.

We can as well ignore the Government and the mobile companies. Maybe they are interested in innovators that do not deliver on their promises and have the same old faces, present the same old stuff using the same old jargon and come in with new wrinkles and more grey hairs each year.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Innovation to improve Kangaroo mother care wins young innovators competition

Team Kangaroo+ at the 5th Medtech CAMTech hack-a-thon 

By Esther Nakkazi

Madina Nalubega is a graduate of nursing at Mbarara University for Science and Technology (MUST). She is waiting to go for internship. 

Nalubega was one of the 250 young innovators who attended the 5th Annual CAMTech UGANDA Medtech Hack-a-thon that happened over the weekend. She was in the the Kangaroo+ team, one of the 30 that presented prototypes to a panel of judges. 

Kangaroo+ team won the innovating to improve neonatal and maternal health at the  CAMTech UGANDA Medtech Hack-a-thon and they received $782 USD or Uganda shillings 2,500,800 and six months of acceleration support as the grand prize winners.

"Their affordable medical technology, Kangaroo+, modifies traditional kangaroo care by combining a thermometer and skin-to-skin contact," the judges that included Richard Zulu the founder of Outbox, innovation hub.

"We came up with this innovation because at the current situation babies are born prematurely and they use Kangaroo care," said Nalubega at the hack-a-thon at Mbarara University. The device will cost up to $10 on the market.

Kangaroo care is a method of holding a baby that involves skin-to-skin contact. The baby, who is naked except for a diaper and a piece of cloth covering his or her back (either a receiving blanket or the parent's clothing), is placed in an upright position against a parent's bare chest. 

In Uganda, of the about 1.5 million children born annually, 90 percent of the more than 200,000 are pre-term babies born before 37 weeks of being in the womb and die before their first birthday. Ideally, babies should spend 40 weeks in the womb.  

So Nalubega's team came up with a jacket that can be used instead of a blanket or a clothing. The jacket has straps that go to the back and the baby is held at the chest of the parent. But they also added a colour coded monitory tool that can show the temperature of the baby.

"When the temperature is high the tool shows a green colour and the mother can remove the baby, when the baby gets cold and is not on its parents chest the monitor shows a red colour," said Nalubega.

CAMTech UGANDA awarded the 2017 hack-a-thon winners over $2,000 USD (6,702,400 UGX) in prize money. Other winners were Team Safe and Dry as First Runner-Up, Team MBT as Second Runner-Up and Team 54 as Third Runner-Up. 

Team Safe and Dry received $625 USD (2,000,000 UGX) for innovating a fistula collection tool, Team MBT received $469 USD (1,500,800 UGX) for a device treating menstrual cramps and Team 54 received $219 USD (700,800 UGX) for a low-cost infant warmer.

In addition to receiving prize money, CAMTech UGANDA offered the winning teams access to webinars and peer-to-peer learning engagements. Each winning team will also compete in a 90-day post-hack opportunity for membership in the CAMTech Accelerator Program (CAP)

An initiative on the CAMTech Innovation Platform, the CAP provides milestone-based funding, a CAP Coach, participation in the CAP Cohort, expert match-making and six-months of acceleration support.

More than 250 clinicians, engineers, entrepreneurs, students and designers convened at MUST for 48 hours to develop innovative medical technologies to improve neonatal and maternal health in low-resource settings.

Participants identified clinical challenges related to newborn and maternal health, formed multi-disciplinary teams, prototyped solutions and developed business models before presenting their ideas to an expert panel of judges.

“We heard from all aspects of the community,” said Dr. Kristian Olson, Director of CAMTech. “We’ve heard problems that were really rooted in culture and in economics, and yes in technical difficulties for certain things, but also in scaling and in communication.”

Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, Uganda’s Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations, and Dr. Frank Tumwebaze, Uganda’s Minister for Information Communication Technology, addressed innovators during the hack-a-thon to represent the Government of Uganda’s commitment to innovating affordable medical technologies.

“The Ministry and the government are interested in supporting you, and we are here for you,” Dr. Tumwesigye said. “In the coming years, we shall see the prototypes from the hack-a-thon being funded in the country.”

Prior to the hack-a-thon on 26-27 August, CAMTech UGANDA hosted a Clinical Summit on 25 August, featuring panel discussions focused on pediatric and neonatal health, nursing, midwifery, obstetrics and gynaecology.

“It’s the time where we get to know and hear in better detail what problems are there affecting the frontline health workers who are battling to save lives on a day-to-day basis,” said Dr. Data Santorino, CAMTech UGANDA Country Manager.

Additionally, CAMTech UGANDA organized visits to Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, Ishaka Adventist Hospital, Holy Innocents Children’s Hospital and Itojo Hospital, where participants learned directly from healthcare workers about the challenges they face in delivering neonatal and maternal healthcare services. 

With support from Massachusetts General Hospital Global Health, CAMTech UGANDA organized the annual hack-a-thon to develop disruptive innovations that have the potential to achieve widespread public health impact.

The Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) is a global network of academic, corporate and implementation partners whose mission is to build entrepreneurial capacity and accelerate medical technology development through an open innovation platform. CAMTech innovators who come from public health, clinical medicine, engineering and business work with end-users in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). 

CAMTech UGANDA is administratively housed at MUST and supports local innovators to transform ideas into solutions that can revolutionize health outcomes for people living in Uganda and across the globe.

“It can be the start of a journey,” Olson said. “CAMTech Boston together with CAMTech UGANDA under the leadership of Dr. Data started five years ago with this idea that if we talk to people who are focusing on challenges that are in their own communities, they’ll come up with better solutions.”

Saturday, August 26, 2017

5th CAMTech Hack-a-thon aims to improve neonatal and maternal health

By Esher Nakkazi

It all starts with an idea in your head. You are an innovator. It can be anyone because anyone can be an innovator. Teams are formed each with a clinician, engineer, entrepreneur, student and a designer. A solution to a problem that’s been bugging is pitched.

Teams have 48 hours to make their vision come true and are challenged to develop a fully functional prototype. At the end of this intense phase, a jury will award the best and most innovative products.

In other words: Welcome to the 5th CAMTech Uganda hack-a-thon happening now at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) with a theme ‘innovating to improve neonatal maternal health’.  

The three day hack-a-thon, 25-27 August has more than 250 participants who are trying to innovate to improve neonatal and maternal health for patients around the world.The winning team will take home a grand Prize: $782 USD (2,500,800 UGX), the first Runner-Up: $625 USD (2,000,000 UGX), second Runner-Up: $469 USD (1,500,800 UGX) and third Runner-Up: $219 USD (700,800 UGX)

In addition to receiving prize money, CAMTech Uganda will offer the three winning teams access to webinars and peer-to-peer learning engagements. Each winning team will also compete in a 90-day post-hack opportunity for membership in the CAMTech Accelerator Program (CAP).

Prior to the hack-a-thon, CAMTech UGANDA hosted a Clinical Summit on 25 August, featuring panel discussions with community health workers, midwives, nurses, pediatricians and obstetricians. As well, there were visits to local clinical sites where participants heard directly from healthcare workers about the challenges they face in delivering neonatal and maternal healthcare services.

Some of the clinical challenges identified were miscarriages and abortions; infertility; premature babies; malformation of the fetus; eclampsia; anaemia; malaria; poor feeding; poor structure for patient follow up; low male involvement; antenatal care ignorance; poor relationship between health workers and pregnant mothers, placental insufficiency; teenage pregnancies; poor record keep=kig in health systems.

An initiative on the CAMTech Innovation Platform, the CAP provides milestone- based funding, a CAP Coach, participation in the CAP Cohort, expert match-making and six- months of acceleration support.

CAMTech UGANDA is part of the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) and is administratively housed at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST).

The Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies
(CAMTech) is a global network of academic, corporate and implementation partners based at the Massachusetts General Hospital. CAMTech's mission is to build entrepreneurial capacity and accelerate medical technology innovation to improve health outcomes in low- and middle-income countries.

With support from Massachusetts General Hospital Global Health, RENU and the Uganda Communications Commission, CAMTech UGANDA organized the annual hack-a-thon to develop disruptive innovations that have the potential to achieve widespread public health impact.

CAMTech UGANDA is part of the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) and is administratively housed at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST).

Stay tuned for more about the 5th hack-a-thon 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Uganda trains coffee stakeholders ahead of first ever auction

By Esther Nakkazi

Ahead of the annual coffee 'Taste of Harvest' competition and Uganda's first ever coffee auction to be held 22 to 26 January 2018, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, (UCDA) in partnership with the African Fine Coffees Association (AFCA) will provide specialty coffee training.

A three-day training for 20  coffee producers, exporters, processors and roasters in Uganda at Hotel Africana beginning tomorrow, August 22, and will be conducted by UCDA’s highly skilled quality and promotions staff in collaboration with AFCA. 

The training will provide participants with the skills to prepare and process high quality specialty coffee beans and enable them to prepare to participate in the Taste of Harvest (TOH) competition, said Mr. Edmund Kananura, Director Quality and Regulatory Services.

The training will highlight the benefits of the 'Taste of Harvest' competition and Auction as well as provide skills on how to prepare and process high quality specialty coffee beans. As well it will include improved coffee processing practices and proper use and handling of coffee equipment and drying materials, as well as quality management to ensure efficiency and consistency of coffee, said a statement from UCDA.

The training will be conducted with grant support from the American people through the USAID/East Africa Trade and Investment Hub. The USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub works to boost trade and investment with and within East Africa.

The 'Taste of Harvest' annual competition will be held alongside the first ever coffee Auction Uganda, at the Uganda Coffee Development Authority Quality Lab in Lugogo, Kampala, under the theme, “Accessing specialty coffee markets through the new Taste of Harvest Coffee Auction System” from 22nd to 26th January 2018.

At the competition, interested farmers submit their best coffee samples for grading. The grading of coffee is determined by specialists known as Q and R graders.

Coffee that scores above 80 is considered to be a specialty coffee and automatically attract good market and even better prices. The competition therefore serves to show that good practices can benefit farmers, said a UCDA statement.

As part of its mandate, UCDA regularly trains farmers across the country to produce quality coffee through good handling practices. As a result there are areas which do produce high quality coffees such as in Kanungu, Sipi, Iganga and Luwero.

Ugandan coffee in general has great taste. It is just a matter of handling it the right way. Farmers must work hard to get more and better quality coffee across the board.

UCDA is excited about the opportunities that the auction and competition will bring to Uganda’s coffee industry, said a statement from UCDA. "Through these two events, producers of high quality coffees, including smallholder coffee farmers, will access new markets and create an international brand for their coffees. UCDA is pleased to be working with AFCA to achieve this reality for Ugandan farmers."

Uganda Coffee Development Authority is mandated to promote and oversee the coffee industry through supporting research, promoting production, controlling coffee quality and improving the marketing of coffee in order to optimize foreign exchange earnings for the country and payments to the farmers.

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Increased male circumcision does not mean Uganda will meet its target

By Esther Nakkazi

The latest 2016 Uganda Population HIV Impact Assessment (UPHIA) survey includes much to celebrate. The proportion of men aged 15-49 years that are circumcised increased from 26% in 2011 to 43% in this survey.

"This is good progress which must be lauded," said Angelo Kaggwa Katumba program officer at AVAC. "Question is, is this pace fast enough for Uganda to achieve its Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) targets?"

It has been documented that between 2010 to 2016, the total number of VMMCs performed in Uganda increased from 9,052 to more than 3.4 million. However, an estimated 4.2 million men and boys between the age of 10-49 years remain uncircumcised.

In terms of funding, U.S President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) continues to be the principal donor for VMMC – supporting about 85% of all circumcisions during this period.

"If it has taken us 6 years to circumcise 3.4 million men then definitely its going to be tricky reaching the 4.2 million uncircumcised men by 2020 and given that Uganda's targets are used to meet the global targets this is going to impact on the global performance," said Kenneth Mwehonge -Program Officer- Advocacy & Networking Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS Uganda).

The report shows that the proportion of men circumcised ranges from 14% in Mid Northern region to 69% in Mid-Eastern region. The prevalence of male circumcision was highest among young people l5-29 years at over 45%.

It also shows that about 6% of of Uganda's adult population aged 15-49 years in Uganda are living with HIV. Among children under five and 5- 14 years, HIV prevalence is 0.5%. Based on the survey results, the total number of adults and children of all ages living with HIV in Uganda is estimated to be approximately 1.3million.

The 2016 UPHIA, is a nationwide survey that was conducted to provide estimates of HIV incidence, HIV prevalence, viral load suppression, syphilis, hepatitisB infection, and other important HIV/AIDS programme indicators. 

Data were collected in all districts of the country from a sample of households that are representative of the Ugandan population. The survey was conducted from August 2016 to March 2017 from 12,483 households and achieved very high participation rates of over 95% for both interviews and blood draws.

A total of 16,670 women and 12,354 men aged 15-64 years were interviewed and tested for HIV, syphilis and hepatitisB. In addition, 10,345 children aged 0-14years were tested, including 6,527 aged, 0-4years and 3,818 aged 5-14 years. 

The 2016 UPHIA was led by the Government of Uganda and conducted by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with ICAP at the Columbia University. Funding for the survey was provided by the U.S President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief . 

Technical assistance was by the U. S Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) other collaborating partners included Uganda Virus Research Institute, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, WHO and UNAIDS. 

In the survey results released on 17th August, adult HIV prevalence was found higher among women at 7.5% compared to 4.3% among men. The HIV prevalence among young people 15-24 years was 2.1% (0.8% in men and, 3.3% among women). 

Among adults, HIV prevalence is lowest in those 15-19 years and highest among men aged 45 to 49 years at 14%. Among women, HIV prevalence is highest in the age groups of 35 to 39 years and 45 to 49 years at 12.9% and 12.8% respectively. 

"Let us first first salute everyone involved in the fight against HIV as there is something to celebrate in terms of the general HIV prevalence in Uganda, however when we dis-aggregate data, we realize that there is a significant increase of prevalence among certain categories of people like adolescents, young girls and women," said Mwehonge.

It was also higher among residents of urban areas at 7.1% compared to 5.5% in rural areas.  There was also differing magnitude depending on the geographical region from 2.8% in West Nile, 3.4% in North East region, 4.4% in East Central(or Busoga region); 4.8% in Mid-East region; 5.5% in Mid-West region. 

The survey found HIV prevalence was higher in urban areas at 6.6% in Kampala; 7.4% in Central 2 (Greater Mubende, Luwero and Mukono); 7.6% in central region (greater Masaka) to 7.7% in south Western region. This is similar to the findings of the 2011 Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey (UAIS) when Mid-Eastern showed the lowest and Central the highest estimated HIV prevalence, a press statement from the Ministry of Health said.

The 2011 UgandaAIDS Indicator Survey estimated national HIV prevalence among adults at 7.3% compared to 6.0% in the 2016 UPHIA. Among women and men, HIV prevalence declined from 8.3% and 6.1% in 2011 to 7.5% and 4.3% in 2016 respectively.

In urban areas, it declined from 8.7% to 7.1%, while in rural areas it fell from 7.0% to 5.5%. These declines in HIV prevalence may be due to a decreasing number of new infections in recent years due to the impact of the intensified HIV prevention and treatment services in the country.
 
The 2016 UPHIA also established the rates undetectable virus or suppressed HIV viral load(VLS). UPHIA showed that adults age 15-49 years had a VLS of 57.4%. This finding shows that with support from development partners such as PEPFAR, the Global Fund and other programs, the Government of Uganda's HfV programme is having an impact and making great progress toward the UNAIDS and national goal of having population level VLS of at least 73% by 2020.

Data from UPHIA identified existing gaps in HIV programmes and specific populations that need special focus. For instance, HIV prevalence the 15-19 year olds was 1.1% (1.8%in girls and 0.5% in boys) there was an increase to 3.3% among those aged 20-24 years (5.1% in young women and 1.3% in young men) which suggests that new infections remain an issue in these age groups said the Ministry of Health statement.

"This continuing infection risk necessitates innovative interventions to prevent new infections in young people beginning around age 20."

Furthermore, women 15-24 and men under 35 years of age who are living with HIV have rates of VLS <500h. 'These lower rates of VLS are driven by younger people being unaware of their HIV status and not accessing available services. Interventions are needed to ensure young people know their statusand if HIV positive are linked to care.

UPHIA also established the magnitude of syphilis and hepatitisB infection in the general population. The prevalence of active syphilis among adults aged 15- 49 years was l.9% (2% among women and 1.8% among men).This was similar to the findings in 2011, in which the prevalence of syphilis was l.8%. 

The prevalence of active hepatitisB infection among adults was 4.3% (5.6% among men and 3.l% among women). HepatitisB prevalence was highest in the Northern Region, Mid North(4.6%), followed by North East(4.4%), and WestNile (3.S%).

HepatitisB infectionwaslower in the rest of the country with a range of 0.8% in the South West region to 2.7% in East Central Region. The preliminary results of 2016 UPHIA demonstrate that Uganda has made significant progress in the national HIV as HIV prevalence has declined across socio-demographic subgroups and across the country.

"This decline may be a result of falling new HIV infections. Furthermore, almost 60%of people living with HIV (PLHIV) have undetectable HIV, which means that treatment programs are successfully reaching the majority of the population with HIV," said the MoH statement. But there needs to be more  prevention awareness creation and treatment is needed for those 15-29 years.

"Moving forward, the PHIA results demonstrate the urgent need to prioritize and fast track the roll-out of high impact interventions if we are to meet the global set targets and achieve epidemic control," said Mwehonge.

"There is need for innovative approaches to reach the 4.2m men by 2020 especially the men between 45-49 years whose HIV prevelance was reported at 14%," Sylvia Nakasi, Policy and Advocacy Officer, Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organisations (UNASO).

"With the launch of the Presidential Fast Track Intiative to end HIV by 2030 in June 2017 by the President,  I hope there is an opportunity to increase investment in prevention and care interventions among vulnerable populations. With this pronouncement its an opportunity to advocacte and hold our leadership accountable," concluded Nakasi.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Media Role in Africa Research

The New Vision Letter's page reaction to sperm count article 
The New Vision cartoon on the sperm count article








































By Esther Nakkazi 

On July 31st we published a news release from a paper published in the African Health sciences journal.

I and a team from the journal as well as Bernard Appiah based at Texas A&M now volunteer to do this for some of the exciting papers published in this journal. It helps that is is open access. 

I help further do the dissemination because of my contacts most of whom I got from my work with the World Federation of Science journalists. 

And I immediately put it out on my blog this one - it has a few eyeballs, 56 today, compared to my other posts, which make it to over 100+ instantly. 

We went into this mode after I met most of these people at a 'building the bridges' 26-28th April, workshop in Kampala that was sponsored by the US National Library of Medicine with partners like Association of Health Care Journalists, Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) and the Alfred Friendly Press Partners.

We are all volunteers in this so we help each other out without really meeting physically. All of us are busy! But what we really aim to achieve is to help Africans appreciate research,  so I think the letter and the cartoon ↑- I didn't add the article written by the New Vision yet -but I will- its offline,  are just a good start to have this conversation. 

We also want African researchers and scientists to be seen not only in 'peer reviewed journals'  but also by their own African media. Maybe, that will improve the way Africans view research and ultimately African governments will fund research more. What they put in now is just peanuts. Africans will do research with their own agenda we hope. That will be super. I am just thinking aloud!

So here below I highlight the author and co-author's reaction and some people just called me to express themselves about the article. 

Uchenna I Nwagha, Professor of Obstetric Biology and Reproductive Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology/Physiology College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (co-author of the paper). This is reaction to the letter published in The New Vision by Patrck Odongo

I am happy with the controversy generated by this topic. We performed a systematic review of the studies available at our disposal since we did not get any RCT on the subject matter in the African population.

We are aware that our conclusions do not provide a grade A evidence but at least, it provided some epidemiological evidence. It is thus not right for Paul Odongo to dismiss our findings just like that considering the peculiar socio-economic characteristics of the study population.

We are very much aware that it is only a systematic review and meta-analysis with RCT, which give the highest degree of evidence. However, we did not find any RCT but used epidemiological studies to raise the alarm

Even case reports or expert opinions are not dismissed in scientific circles as they too provide some degree of evidence for a new situation or escalation of an existing problem. I know that most people have encountered this situation in their day to day clinical practice but have been unable to put them down due to the lack of writing culture. We worked with what was available, followed strict guidelines, and came up with some evidence, which is a cause for worry.

One researcher called me to ask why the paper did not talk about sperm quality. He said it is not the the count but the quality that matters. Here is Dr Pallav Sengupta, the head of Physiology Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Lincoln University College, Malaysia reaction. He was the principal investigator and I sent that concern to him.

Our report is on sperm count only, not semen quality. Semen quality includes four parameters: semen volume, sperm count, sperm morphology and sperm motility. Our report is not describing changes in other parameters, it is entirely concerned on sperm count changes.

This newspaper report is describing some weaknesses of this study. We appreciate it. It will definitely help us to improve the quality of our future articles.

We are patting ourselves on the back as we await more comments and as we think of writing another press release from another paper from the African Health Sciences journal!



Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Funding Cancer; Today’s research is treatment tomorrow

By Esther Nakkazi

On 8th August 1967, the lymphoma treatment research centre was born in Uganda. The Irish surgeon, Denis Burkitt who was treating tropical diseases was interested in Burkitt’s Lymphoma - a highly curable paediatric lymphoma.

This disease, which was later named after the Irish surgeon, was a strikingly disfiguring tumour, with malaria and viruses as causative factors and was commonly manifested among the young male population.

In 1972, when Uganda’s president Idi Amin threw out all foreigners from the country, the expatriates left the lymphoma treatment centre in the able hands of Prof Charles Olweny. Olweny and his staff kept the UCI alive and thriving, they followed up almost all their patients.

Dr. Tom Tomusange (RIP) and his team navigated through thickets and roadless places during these patient safaris to follow up on patients. As a result, for a patient cohort of over 200 patients only about 6 were lost to follow up. That was just one of the successes.

At a press conference to mark 50 years, today, Dr. Marissa Mika, a historian and anthropologist who has been studying the history of cancer in Uganda since 2010, took us through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when UCI conducted cutting edge chemotherapy clinical research trials on Burkitt’s lymphoma.

According to Dr. Mika, the data from these clinical trials continues to inform treatment protocols across the globe. Also for its excellent work at that time, the UCI won the Lasker award for research on Burkitt’s lymphoma in 1972.

It was no easy feat for UCI to be bestowed upon the Lasker award, about the equivalent of today’s noble prize, but they had done profound research against Burkitt's lymphoma, which could be put into remission and eventually healed and with very limited funding.

As the lymphoma treatment centre now the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), turns half a Century old, it is also celebrated as the oldest cancer research and public oncology facility in Africa. Recently, it was designated as a centre for excellence in oncology by the East African Development Bank.

“UCI is making an impact in East Africa and it is on its way to becoming an example in Africa,” said Jackson Orem the executive director of UCI.

But what can it take for UCI to win the Lasker award again? And does it mean Uganda Burkitt’s lymphoma was wiped out and is no more? Unfortunately not. Burkitt’s lymphoma continues to be a major paediatric problem in Uganda.

The problem according to Dr. Orem is that the gains that were made at the time Burkitt’s lymphoma was healed were never followed up. The other problem is limited funding for cancer.

“When investment in an area is made it should be followed up. In 1967 they were emphasising generation of new knowledge. We are trying to put that back at UCI,” said Dr. Orem at the half Century mark.

The man at the helm of UCI says unlike other African countries that may be waiting for ready made solutions, his Institute is putting research at the forefront of fighting cancer.

But we all know that research is impossible without funding. And to this he says; research must be funded. It should not be considered a luxury. For today’s research is tomorrow’s treatment.

Ultimately, at the UCI, the research that was done 50 years ago is treatment today.

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