US funding to train 140 000 African healthcare workers

March 10, 2011

A new programme, funded largely by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), will provide $130-million in grants to African institutions, with the aim of strengthening medical education and research training.

Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health (NIH), said the goals of the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (Mepi) are ambitious. “The intention here is, over five years, to train no less than 140 000 healthcare workers and to provide a real platform for a wide variety of research activities going forward. This is not something that has been attempted before,” he said.

In addition to supporting doctors, nurses and community healthcare workers, the programme will help train individuals who can be successful in applying for grant support to carry out research.

Collins said that for too many years, research in Africa has been unsupported and that often it has been carried out by foreign institutions. The future of healthcare in Africa would be brightest if the capacity for research on the continent is strengthened, he added.

SA medical schools to benefit
Two South African institutions — the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and Stellenbosch University — are among the dozen African universities involved in the programme and will receive a portion of the funding through a series of grants. US officials and representatives from the medicals schools are meeting in Johannesburg this week to build networks and finds ways to collaborate.

Dr Umesh Lalloo, dean of the faculty of medicine at UKZN said that, based on the huge shortage of health workers in the country, the Mepi grant couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment.

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