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Commentary & Opinion
Research Funding in Sub-Saharan Africa Needs to "Reflect True Disease Burden"

June 21, 2012

With the disease burden of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria expected to make up less than 15 percent of the total disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2030, and non-communicable diseases to account for nearly 40 percent of the total in the region, "[a] revision of the approach to research and health care in SSA is therefore urgently needed, but international donors and health communities have generally been slow to respond to the changing environment," Ole Olesen and M. Iqbal Parker of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in South Africa write in a commentary in Tropical Medicine & International Health. "Private and public funding for health research in Africa remains therefore disproportionately focused on the three major infectious diseases, whereas only smaller amounts have been allocated to confront other diseases," they write and provide examples.

"Better knowledge about diseases and how to prevent them means that many health conditions could be improved with relatively small and coordinated investments in the right places, but funding agencies and policy makers are often reluctant to divert scarce resources into new areas," Olesen and Parker state, adding, "This situation will only change if African governments provide leadership and demand international donors to consolidate their funding priorities rather than competing with each other in isolated silos." The authors conclude, "Future health investments should better reflect the true disease burden and try to confront the emerging public health issues before they manifest themselves as serious problems" (6/21).

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