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: Ouma Simple
Role in INTE-AFRICA: Study Coordinator
Projects involved within RESPOND-AFRICA: INTE-AFRICA
Where they are based: TASO HEADQUARTERS, Kampala, Uganda
Past role/job: Medical Services Technical Lead TASO Gulu Centre of Excellence
Who are you?
I am a physician, a researcher and a public health specialist. Currently, I am the acting Research Manager at TASO Uganda and the study coordinator for the INTE-AFRICA project. I have more than eight years of experience in infectious diseases, chronic care (HIV, NCD, and mental health) and sexual and reproductive health programming and research. I am a Northern Pacific Global Health (NPGH) Post-Doc Fellow with the University of Minnesota and Makerere University, funded by the national institute of health (NIH) through Fogarty International Centre. Through this research support, I have conducted mentored research on childhood victimisation and mental health disorders among adolescents of female sex workers in Northern Uganda. I have contributed to more than eight publications in internationally recognised peer-reviewed journals and I am a peer reviewer with several international journals like PLoS One, BMC health services research, Tropical Medicine and Health, and BJPysch Open.
For my master thesis in public health, I funded a project to investigate the heath of female sex workers in Northern Uganda and had three publications from this project.
How has your journey helped you lead to this point in your career?
My research career has been a long journey right from Medical School that I successfully competed and where I won a competitive MEPI-MESAU Supported Undergraduate Mentored Research as the Principal Investigator from the Fogarty International Centre, 2014. The project was about obstacles to family planning among women of reproductive age in post-conflict Northern Uganda. After the successful implementation of this project, I gained the necessary attitude needed to conduct and publish research works. In addition, I heavily invested in acquiring the skills needed to conduct qualitative research. I had to personally fund a number of my research projects. Since becoming the study coordinator for INTE- AFRICA meant my return to mainstream research, I had to apply and compete for the job even though it was less prestigious and was paying less than my previous job.
How did you initially get involved in research?
I started leading a research team as a medical student in my 4th year. This was through an undergraduate competitive mentored research grant. To build my knowledge and skills, I took lead in a few small self-funded research projects. For my master thesis in public health, I funded a project to investigate the heath of female sex workers in Northern Uganda and had three publications from this project.
How has the field of integrated care, especially in sub–Saharan Africa, been changing?
Initially, most if not all health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa had integrated care. This was partly because there were only a few healthcare workers who had to multitask to serve the entire population. With the advent of more specialised training and restrictive donor funding, most health systems now implement condition-specific vertical clinics that handle only a few groups of illnesses. The most classic example are the donor-funded HIV clinics in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, there have been changing trends supported by a robust body of evidence towards integrated care in the region. This is partly because integrated care is more cost-effective as countries leverage the available resources —time, finance, equipment and human resources— to provide quality care that is centred around the individual patient rather than the condition.
Implementation science research on NCD programming (prevention, care, and treatment) is neglected.
What areas of HIV and NCD research and/or project management do you think are being neglected?
A lot of effort has gone to understand the epidemiology of HIV and NCD. Likewise, a lot of efforts have gone towards the implementation of scientific research on HIV which has greatly improved HIV programming. However, implementation science research on NCD programming (prevention, care, and treatment) is neglected.
What do you hope to do in your role and as a member of the RESPOND-AFRICA consortium?
I hope to continue to conduct more research on chronic conditions and advocate for funding and better chronic care in Uganda.
Besides research and randomised control trials, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy meeting people and sharing ideas.