Accra, May 12, GNA - The 25th Anniversary celebrations of the Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC) has been launched in Accra, with a call for increased efforts to sustain the gains made by the institution over the years.
The occasion also saw the launch of a Bi-annual lecture series in honour of the late Dr Paul Arthur, who was the Centre’s first Director when it was, established in 1994 under the Kintampo Vitamin ‘A’ Project.
Dr Anarfi Asamoah-Baah, a Former Deputy Director-General, WHO, who delivered the keynote address on the theme: “Sustaining 25 years of Excellence in Health Research: Impacting Communities, Shaping Health Policy and Practice,” congratulated the KHRC for its achievements and sustained contributions to public health research in Ghana over the years, admitting that the Centre had been a great success.
He also acknowledged the impact and influence of the Centre in terms of addressing the health needs of populations both locally and internationally through research, and providing employment opportunities for about 5,000 people in the community in which it was located.
He cited the KHRC’s key roles in numerous health researches that had informed policy decisions, especially the recent development of the new malaria vaccine which was currently being introduced into routine immunization in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda.
Dr Asamoah-Baah however stated that the road into the future for research was going to be challenging, because it would be crowded with more brains, become multidisciplinary, with high public expectations calling for quick outcomes, and there was lack of trust in public institutions with the presently widespread social media misinformation threats against health research outcomes.
“These may result in low population risks, as people would no longer accept to be used as guinea pigs,” he said.
He said sustaining the gains would require actions including improving existing research infrastructure and increasing the number of centres to improve empirical data, strengthening the availability of funding for research, improving collaboration with academia, and enhancing the capacity building of research staff on sustained basis.
Dr Asamoah-Baah further suggested the urgent need to change the low perception culture about research by encouraging analytical thinking among children especially from the primary school level in order to generate their interests in the subject as early as possible.
Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), admitted that there was the need to do things differently if Ghana was to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
He challenged the KHRC to research further into health issues such as the reasons for the low tuberculosis detection rates, and the struggles with achieving the Prevention of Mother-to-Child-Transmission of HIV (PMTCT), as well as why anemia was still high among pregnant women.
He affirmed the commitment of his outfit towards the activities of the Centre and noted that the GHS will support it with the needed human resource capacity, for effective delivery of its mandate and services.
Dr Kwaku Poku Asante, the Director of the Kintampo Health Research Centre, stated that the Centre had come a long way from leveraging on a Vitamin ‘A’ project, to an establishment that envisioned to become a Centre of excellence that conduct high quality research to shape local and international health policy, programmes and practices.
He gave a list of the activities and achievements of the Centre some being it’s supporting with the National Malaria Control Programme to advocate for testing for malaria before treatment, as well as its involvement in the testing for the safety and efficacy of the first malaria vaccine among other research breakthroughs for emerging Non-Communicable Diseases.
However the Centre was faced with funding challenges for research, stating that currently 70 per cent of its finances were from donor sources which was risky for Ghana, and urged the government and corporate organisations to urgently address the issue by mobilizing domestic resources to solve the local health needs of the country.
He advocated for dual appointment within the GHS to ensure academic career progression.
Mr Alexander Abban, the Deputy Minister of Health, stressed that Ghana’s scientists were commended internationally and “we must be grateful to them,” and urged the KHRC to sell itself for the whole world to acknowledge their contributions to public health.
He however commented about the slow translation of research outcomes into actions and said the Ministry was working to address the disconnection to help improve the lives of Ghanaians, and further promised to address the issue of research funding to institutions.
Some solidarity messages were also delivered by institutions including the Ministry of Health, WHO, and the Ghana Standards Authority.
Dr Owen Laws Kaluwa, the WHO Country Representative, said health research was very critical in addressing the needs of people and advocated for increased collaboration with other health partners, while ensuring the increased utilization of funding for home grown research for quality outcomes.
He said the anniversary had come at a time when Ghana and two other African countries were implementing the new malaria vaccine and that the country should be proud of this achievement since its pool of scientists contributed to this global breakthrough, and called for unity in saving lives.
Professor Seth Owusu-Agyei, who succeeded Dr Arthur after his demise in 2002 as the Center’s new Director till 2017, praised his predecessor for his selfless leadership role and the great foundation laid, and said the solid grounding would be sustained.
Dr Alex Dodoo, also commended the KHRC for its cordial relationship with the GSA over the years especially in the calibration of all its equipment on regular basis to ensure authentic data and research outcomes.