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International project aims to cut cancer deaths in East Africa

A cross-continent health project is now aiming to address an emerging health crisis in East Africa, by creating lower-cost care for cancer patients.  Led by The Open University, it brings together researchers in India, the UK and Africa and has been awarded nearly £700,000 from the Economic and Social Research Council.

Dr Mercy Njeru, from the Kenya Medical Research Institute says, “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.”

Linking technology and pharmaceuticals

India East Africa

Indian experts in pharmaceuticals will contribute to the project

The collaboration will identify new technologies and off-patent medicines which could have an impact on cancer 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 to people in Kenya and Tanzania.

Maureen Mackintosh, Professor of Economics at The Open University, who is leading the research team says, “At a moment of rising international awareness of the crisis in access to care in Africa, this project is unique in linking local industrial development with improving cancer care in East Africa. 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.”

More about the project

The collaboration brings together The Open University, University of Edinburgh, University of Sussex, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the Economic and Social Research Foundation, Tanzania (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.

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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About Author

Kath works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is a skilled communicator with more than 15 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has a BA (Hons) English and American Literature from University of Warwick and specialises in stories from the Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, BBC programmes, and student stories. In her spare time Kath enjoys touring the country in her hand-painted camper van, Trevor.

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