Professor Mohamed Samai
Deputy Vice Chancellor COMAHS/USL
COMAHS continues to be a national leader on health research and capacity strengthening within Sierra Leone, generating the much needed evidence to inform policy and practice. Accordingly, COMAHS has a growing number of active research and training collaborations with international partners including Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK), King’s College London, King’s Sierra Leone Partnership, Queen Margaret University (UK) Berlin University (Germany), Boston College (USA), University of Leeds and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (USA). Current COMAHS research activities are needs based at the national level, to ensure that COMAHS plays a continued role in the health system rebuilding/strengthening phase and socio-economic development, by providing the necessary evidence to inform policy and practice. This has included the publication of rigorous peer reviewed publications, policy briefs, national and international conference presentations, research reports and the creation of close and enduring relationships with counterparts in the Ministry of Health and other bodies which are key to the research into action process.
These projects can be grouped into
This is in response to disease outbreaks, including the concluded Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine Against Ebola (STRIVE) clinical trial, funded by CDC USA, of which the candidate Ebola vaccine was used in the recent EVD outbreak in the DRC, and the large scale ongoing clinical trial (safety and immunogenicity study), EBOVAC Salone Clinical Trial, funded by the European Union, which aims to assess the safety and immunogenicity of a new vaccine against Ebola. A Malaria vaccine trial is also ongoing, funded by EDCTP.
HEALTH SYSTEMS STRENGTHENING PROJECTS
COMAHS has existing strategic links relevant stakeholders, including the MOHS, within the health policy making space, generating the much needed evidence to support policy and practice, in support of the overall health systems reconstruction process. These include the DFID funded ReBUILD research consortium an international research partnership, which generated evidence the informed the development of a number of significant policies and strategic plans including thepost Ebola recovery plan, the Human Resource for Health policy and strategic plan. This project has been re-awarded to COMAHS, with a new 6 year funded ReBUILD for Resilience research project underway. Other health systems strengthening projects include the ASSET project funded by the National institute for Health Research in the UK, which has an overarching aim to develop, adapt and evaluate health system strengthening interventions to enhance delivery of guideline based care across three platforms – surgical care, maternal care and integrated primary healthcare for chronic diseases. This in turn will support finding practical ways to improve the coverage and quality of care. Another HSS project is the NIHR funded Research Unit on Health in Fragility which focuses on the increasing burden of NCDs and mental ill-health, will address both institutional and community-related aspects of service delivery and health promotion with particular attention to their interdependence. This in turn will provide evidence to address the lack of prioritization of NCDs and mental health in policy and services and secure increased quality, coverage and accessibility of key health interventions in diverse contexts of fragility.
Another ongoing research project at COMAHS is The Accountability and Responsiveness in Informal Settlements for Equity (ARISE) research partnership. The five-year partnership has an overarching aim of working with informal communities (slums) and policy stakeholders to enhance health systems accountability, equity and wellbeing through participatory action research. In Sierra Leone, the ARISE Sierra Leone hub is implemented via a partnership between Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC), Centre of Dialogue for Human Settlement and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA), Federation of Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP) and COMAHS. This is our first of many intra-country research partnerships.
CAPACITY BUILDING PROJECTS
This focus at the individual and institutional (intra and inter) levels. These include the recently concluded ReCAP-SL project funded by EDCTP which supported the development of a research centre at COMAHS and conducted a research needs capacity assessment at COMAHS. This assessment in turn informed the short and long term action plan for institutional research capacity building at COMAHS, and supported the development of four multi-disciplinary health researchers into future health research leaders. This was preceded by the RECAP-USL project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund, which aims to support institutional research capacity building at the University of Sierra Leone level. RECAP-USL’s vision is to strengthen research capacity and capability to generate knowledge on how to improve decision-making and accountability to help support preparedness and response to humanitarian crises and epidemics. It involves both research and research capacity building and applies multi-disciplinary research methods.
The overall goal of our institutional research strategy, is to cultivate a sustainable research culture, by increasing the proportion of academic staff conducting needs based valuable research and producing publications and other outputs of the highest quality. Research capacity building is pivotal in realizing this goal to increase the pool of researchers and support individual professional development. An element of capacity building in embedded in all our research partnerships. To date COMAHS has negotiated for four split site PhD studentships (with a five being negotiated) and have trained four multi-disciplinary researchers. We also support the cultivation of a research culture amongst our students, supported by our Youth Forwards research partnership with Boston College, funded by the National Institute for Mental Health in the USA. At the research support level, COMAHS is actively looking for funding to support it’s ongoing efforts of strengthening our research administration and financial management systems.
At the inter institutional level, COMAHS in partnership with Sierra Leone Ethics and Scientific review committee, Pharmacy Board Sierra Leone and Kings Sierra Leone Partnership is in receipt of an EDCTP funded to strengthen ethics and regulatory bodies in Sierra Leone.
DISEASE SPECIFIC RESEARCH PROJECTS
This include the Larcos Project (Lassa Fever in Guinea and Sierra Leone) funded by Charit Universitacts, a two phase research project looking at the control of Lassa fever and seasonality of human exposure to rodents and rodent human cohabitation and disease control; and the Research Unit on Health in Fragility, funded by the National institute for Health Research, and focuses on the increasing burden of Non Communicable diseases and mental ill-health, and will address both institutional and community-related aspects of service delivery and health promotion with particular attention to their interdependence and provide evidence to address the lack of prioritization of NCDs and mental health in policy and services and secure increased quality, coverage and accessibility of key health interventions in diverse contexts of fragility. We also have the National Institute for Health Research funded SiSLE stroke project, which aims to improve care for stroke patients and support for their families in Sierra Leone. Another NIHR funded project in our portfolio is the Global Health Research Group in Surgical Technologies project which aims to improve the quality of surgical care for the most vulnerable populations with research projects in two low resource countries: Sierra Leone and India.