The four primary research themes for R4HC-MENA

Dr Preeti Patel and Prof Richard Sullivan speak with ecancer at the September 2018 R4HC Executive Board Meeting, which brought together regional collaborators to discuss programme updates and activities at the end of the programme’s first year.

This work stream brings together complementary strengths at KCL (Conflict and Health Research Group) and American University Beirut (AUB Lebanon) to build regional capacity on conflict and health.

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The aim of this work stream is to provide systematic and empirically grounded research capacity in the political economy of health in conflict in MENA countries, particularly around methods to examine the historical development and policies of their health systems, and the current role of government, the private sector, international donors and humanitarian agencies.

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Cancer is a growing problem in all MENA countries, currently ranking as the fourth leading cause of death in the region. The incidence of cancer in this region is expected to experience the highest increase among all WHO regions in the next 20 years, posing a major burden to health and development in MENA.

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Armed conflict and organised violence cause and amplify psychosocial stressors (e.g. poverty, malnutrition, inadequate housing and social isolation), which adversely affect people’s mental health and wellbeing (Miller & Rasmussen, 2010). Conflict-affected populations have been shown to have a higher prevalence of both common and severe mental disorders compared to the general population (Tol et al., 2011).

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Across all four work streams, four common deliverables are embedded:

  • Curricula and courses will be co-developed and co-delivered in local contexts

  • Training will be focused on faculty leaders and will use a variety of pedagogical approaches (from certificate level modules to full Masters degrees tailor made for the MENA region)

  • Both UK and MENA partners will be strongly encouraged to co-publish in high impact journals to build academic depth and ensure the translation of research to policy

  • A focus on innovative learning technologies and informatics – such as blended learning, online and virtual learning

Additional areas of work and cross-cutting themes

Training & Capacity Building

The R4HC-MENA programme aims to build research and policy capacity in conflict affected areas focusing on health, political economy of health and complex non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as mental health and cancer, by blending qualitative and quantitative methods and bridging social and clinical sciences.

This will be achieved in the UK and MENA partner countries through contextually sensitive activities including:

  • Co-development and delivery of accredited multi-disciplinary courses following a blended learning approach with faculty from the UK and MENA region. These courses are fundamentally inquiry based and will improve knowledge and expertise in classical and new research methods to grow capacity to generate much needed empirical data. To achieve this, lecturers and researchers will be specifically trained in innovative teaching methods, assessments and evaluation methods.
  • Mentoring senior leadership at national and global/multilateral institution levels in the translation of research to policy.
  • Developing targeted and innovative Learning Technologies and Informatics  platforms for distance learning and education (iTEL).
  • The AUB Global Health Institute Academy will be involved in the development and implementation of blended learning, including webinars and massive open online courses.

Additionally, the R4HC-MENA programme will develop new sustainable partnerships between organisations to build expertise and capacity in conflict and health research across the MENA region and globally. Activities include:

  • Bringing together academic, humanitarian and government sectors to develop education programs and build expertise in conflict and health research in both the UK and partner countries.
  • Engage with other countries in areas of conflict in the MENA region (e.g. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Tunisia) in order to learn from their experiences and build new or strengthen existing South-South partnerships.

Medical Ethics Education

The Centre for Military Ethics at King’s College London is working to refine and expand the existing (and successful) Military Ethics Education Playing Cards and their linked online resources by researching and developing a new training and education resource specifically designed for health care professionals deployed in conflict, post conflict and humanitarian disaster relief environments.