Lukas Radbruch and Tony Powell have chaired the EAPC Task Force on Collaboration with Africa since its initiation in 2011. Tony Powell is also the Director of Learning and Research at the African Palliative Care Association (APCA)
Is it really important to think about research when there are so many palliative care patients in your country that have no access to opioids and are left in pain and suffering? There was not much doubt among the participants of the kick-off meeting of the African Palliative Care Research Network (APCRN) in Kampala, Uganda, last week (23 to 25 April 2012): yes, research is important to identify the needs and priorities of patients, to evaluate the effectiveness of the services and to compare different models of care in different settings. It is important to generate evidence for stakeholders and funders to inform them how to spend resources in the most efficient way.
I had a good chance to see an interesting model of palliative care that was developed in Uganda, where nurses with special training are allowed to prescribe and dispense morphine. I was able to participate in a home visit at Jinja Hospice, 80 miles east of Kampala, in a very rural setting. We met Patrick, who suffers from advanced esophageal cancer, in a room in the local Health Center IV (which is the minimum level of care facility), where he got his morphine solution and some adjuvant drugs that were handed out by the nurses from a suitcase with bottles that contained the hospice pharmacy. The model of nurse prescribers is currently being discussed in several other African countries, and more evidence on the effectiveness from clinical surveys and studies would be very useful.
As a matter of fact, the discussion among the APCRN participants highlighted that there is ongoing research, for example with the APCA-originated African version of the Palliative Outcome Scale (POS), on spirituality, and on needs assessment in cardiac disease patients. However, palliative care research in Africa faces serious problems, such as lack of funding, lack of interest among service deliverers and lack of trained research staff. Establishing the APCRN is a significant step forward towards collaboration between African researchers with their European and North American counterparts. The network will use Kampala (Uganda), Ibadan (Nigeria), Cape Town (South Africa) and Cairo (Egypt) as African sub-regional hubs to facilitate regional collaboration.
There will also be a European hub within the network with the EAPC Task Force, and European researchers that are interested to collaborate with African partners are invited to contact the task force direct. Participants in Kampala identified some topics with good potential to be quick-win research projects, and also worked on a more comprehensive research agenda.
We hope that the discussions in the network, as well as the research work coming out of this group, will stimulate new ideas and projects that will not only advance palliative care in Africa, but also develop new perspectives and initiate new developments in Europe and other parts of the world.
Find out more…
Click here for further information about the African Palliative Care Research Network. Additional information about the network and its development will be posted over the coming months.