The first advanced skills research course is happening now in Kampala led by an African and European faculty. Lukas Radbruch, Chair of the EAPC Task Force on Collaboration with Africa, explains.
About 44 million of the 56 million annual deaths worldwide occur in developing countries, and the vast majority of those concerned would benefit from palliative care. However, only a very modest contribution of publications comes from low or middle-income countries (LMIC), and many of the papers with data from LMIC have been published by high-income countries (Pastrana et al. 2010). This is quite understandable; the need for clinical services is so overwhelming in these countries that palliative care professionals find it difficult to dedicate any time to research.
However, in some African countries the next generation is coming into palliative care; and they want to do not only clinical work, but also to establish palliative care as an academic field, and to establish an evidence base for the specific palliative care problems in their setting.
So it is very good that the first advanced skills research course is running right now in Kampala, in Uganda, organised by the Makerere Palliative Care Unit (MPCU) in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh (UOE) and the Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care in Africa at Hospice Africa Uganda. I have been with Mhoira Leng, Liz Namukwaya and Julia Downing in Kampala to teach, for the first week of the course, lessons on theory and practice of quantitative and qualitative research, and teaching with Eve Namisango (from the African Palliative Care Association APCA) on how to use SPSS (statistical analysis in social sciences), Next week, Scott Murray, Dan Munday, Kirsty Boyd and Liz Grant will join the faculty and teach how to write and publish. This is the latest in a number of initiatives to build research capacity led by MPCU and the UOE.
This research course is part of an exciting development in Africa, and comes just at the right time. In April, the Palliative Care Research Network of APCA met and drafted an African research agenda, and ideas for collaborative surveys are currently being discussed. The APCA African Palliative Care Research Network will use regional hubs to foster regional collaboration. The EAPC has established a Task Force on Collaboration with Africa, which will be used as the European hub of the African research network.
The EAPC task force will provide a platform for collaboration with European and African partners working in palliative care, and will help in planning and performing pilot studies using the collaboration of European and African partners. As coordinator of the task force I was happy to participate in the research course. The interest and engagement or the participants, coming from Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Sudan and Cameroon, was inspiring, and it was fun to be with them and the rest of the faculty.
A visit to the big government-owned Mulago Hospital confirmed the need for the African Palliative Care Research Network. A 13-year old boy was waiting for further diagnostic; his belly was distended, most probably from some lymphatic malignancy, and the family was still trying to find the money to pay for the biopsy, but at least he was prescribed oral morphine to alleviate his dyspnea. Excessive speed of cancer recurrence or growth of metastases in HIV-positive patients, breast cancer in teenagers or young women under 30 years, treatment of complex pain syndromes with only few analgesic options available, all these are problems that are unfamiliar to the European researcher.
I hope that the participants of the course will be able to maintain their enthusiasm and will find funds and collaborators to enable them to carry out research and publish it! The EAPC Task Force will support these endeavours.
Keep the date…
The Net Effect: Spanning Diseases, Crossing Borders, the annual conference of the African Palliative Care Association in partnership with the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa, takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 17-20 September 2013.