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OU-led project awarded funding to improve access to cancer care in East Africa

Shutterstock-169502801 African doctors looking at xray of lungs

The Open University has been awarded nearly £700,000 by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to lead an East Africa-India-UK research collaboration to improve access to cancer care in East Africa.

The funding has been awarded under the ESRC GCRF New Models of Sustainable Development Inclusive Societies initiative, and will address an emerging health crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa, where an increasing number of people are dying from cancer through poor diagnosis and treatment, and exclusion from treatment by the lack of ability to pay for it.

This international collaboration will identify emerging innovative technologies and off-patent medicines which offer potential for lower-cost care in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many of these technologies are being developed in India, a country with a strong pharmaceutical industry and a track record of low-cost production of health sector inputs. The research team will explore the potential of linking these technological advances with innovation in industrial production and in health care in East Africa to increase the accessibility of low-cost cancer care in Kenya and Tanzania.

Leading the research collaboration is Maureen Mackintosh, Professor of Economics at The Open University, who said, “At a moment of rising international awareness of the crisis in access to care in Africa, this project is unique in its focus on linking local industrial development with improving cancer care in East Africa. Proposed initially by Kenyan colleagues and rooted in a robust Africa-India-UK partnership, the project aims to demonstrate in practical terms the scope for linking improved health care to local economic development in a process of increasingly inclusive development.”

The collaboration brings together The Open University, University of Edinburgh, University of Sussex, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the Economic and Social Research Foundation, Zanzania (ESRF), and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). The team from The Open University is led by Professor Mackintosh, and includes Dr Cristina Santos, Lecturer in Economics, Dr Dinar Kale, Senior Lecturer, and Dr Charlotte Cross, Lecturer in International Development.

Dr Mercy Njeru, KEMRI, Nairobi, Kenya, said, “Kenya faces a rising disease burden from cancer which is now one of the leading causes of death. This project will bring together Kenya’s large pharmaceutical industry and local health specialists with Indian and UK collaborators to address this burden.”’

The project, ‘GCRF Inclusive societies: How to link industrial and social innovation for inclusive development: lessons from tackling cancer care in Africa’ will run from September 2019 to February 2021.

The bid for the funding was supported by The Open University’s Innovation, Knowledge and Development (IKD) research area, and the International Development and Inclusive Innovation (IDII) Strategic Research Area.

This collaboration builds on an earlier ESRC-funded  project led by Professor Mackintosh with which focused on Tanzanian and Kenyan collaborators, researching the hypothesis that better integration between industrial and health policies in low-income countries could contribute to economic and employment growth, strengthen industrial capability and sustainability, and also improve healthcare access and resilience.

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