Outside the biomedical box of integrated care research. Meet some of our new RESPOND-AFRICA staff
The RESPOND-AFRICA consortium is made up of a range of diverse professionals from Europe and Africa. They are working on several different projects all aimed at improving health outcomes for people living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and HIV in Africa. They are experts in unique activities that range from infectious disease care, non-communicable diseases care, project management, implementation, social science, or health economics. Have you ever wondered what it takes to be involved in a large global health program including multi-country randomised control trials? We have interviewed some of our new RESPOND-AFRICA members who are both on the ground and behind the scenes to give you an idea. Follow along in our series documenting some of our RESPOND-AFRICA consortium members!
Interviewee name: Dominic Bukenya
Role in RESPOND-AFRICA: Social/behavioural scientist coordinator for the participating health facilities in Uganda during the early phases of the INTE-AFRICA project and analysing and leading the writing of the MOCCA results
Projects involved within RESPOND-AFRICA: INTE-AFRICA and MOCCO
Where they are based: Kyamulibwa Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute and London School of Hygiene and the Tropical Medicine field station
Past role/job: Social scientist at the MOCCA project, addressing the users’ and providers’ concerns of diabetes, hypertension and HIV care integration provision and usage
Who are you?
I am a reserved, hard-working person who sets goals and works towards achieving them. I enjoy being challenged to look at things differently. I have been engaged in research for the last 15+ years at different levels. I began as an intern interviewer and rose through the ranks to my current position as a social/behavioural scientist coordinator. This has been through in house and formal training. Working as a team member and lead person, I have been engaged in authoring and co-authoring a number of peer-reviewed publications.
Big similarities between the treatment of HIV and the treatment of other chronic conditions easily became noticeable, though research in this area was limited.
How has your journey helped you lead to this point in your career?
Initially, I was engaged in research heavily focused on HIV. However, with the coming of ART, HIV quickly turned into a chronic condition, at a time when the burden of non-communicable conditions was quickly rising. Big similarities between the treatment of HIV and the treatment of other chronic conditions easily became noticeable, though research in this area was limited. The Kyamulibwa Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute (MRC/UVRI) and London School of Hygiene and the Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) were among the pioneer researchers to venture into this twin area. I was involved in the WHO stepwise survey that aimed at establishing the burden of chronic conditions at a community level. This survey has resulted in several related projects within the Unit and I have been engaged in addressing the behavioural components of these HIV-non communicable disease research projects to date.
How did you initially get involved in research?
I first got involved in research at the university during my undergraduate training. It was mandatory to undertake a research project and this offered me an opportunity for first-hand involvement in research. I further got involved in research during my internship with the Medical Research Council programme on AIDS. After, I got involved in the qualitative evaluation of the male medical circumcision trial with the Rakai Health Programme. Later, I joined the MRC/UVRI and LSHTM as an interviewer and research assistant until I did post-graduate training.
How has the field of integrated care, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, been changing?
Initially, the focus of integrated care was on HIV and TB. The results from this were well received and implemented. With ART provision and access becoming more common at a time when other non-communicable diseases’ burden was rising, research into the feasibility of integrating HIV care and care for non-communicable diseases has been getting more attention. However, evidence of how this can be done and how acceptable this is to the users and the providers remains scanty.
What areas of HIV and NCD research and/or project management do you think are being neglected?
Treatment adherence among people accessing integrated care remains poorly understood. The same goes for the question of linkage to care and how the different diseases’ funding models will be integrated.
What do you hope to do in your role and as a member of the RESPOND-AFRICA consortium?
I am very much interested in investigating the issue of adherence to treatment under an integrated care delivery model as well as the issue of linkage to care after diagnosis, especially for people with multi-morbidities.
Research into the feasibility of integrating HIV care and care for non-communicable diseases has been getting more attention. However, evidence of how this can be done and how acceptable this is to the users and the providers remains scanty.
Besides research and randomised control trials, what do you enjoy doing?
Outside research work, I enjoy visiting new places, meeting new people and attending to animals and plants.