Designing, conducting and analyzing health-related research studies is an important priority in Swaziland, as well as utilizing research data to inform decision-making in the health sector. Public health professionals, however, often have limited opportunity to garner such research skills.
To address these gaps and to help advance stronger, evidence-based health policy, ICAP recently launched the Health Research Training Program (HRTP) in Swaziland in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new program aims to strengthen the capacity of public health workers to conduct health research and interpret the findings. It also aims to establish an operational base for designing and implementing research activities and to promote networking among health researchers in Swaziland.
At the launch event on July 8, the Honorable Minister of Health, Benedict Xaba, MP noted that the program comes at a critical time when Swaziland is faced with growing challenges, in particular with the burden of HIV and TB. He pledged the Government’s support and reinforced that a workforce skilled in health research is a critical component to addressing these challenges.
The Health Research Training Program includes a fellowship program for highly-trained mid-career public health professionals who will spend a year strengthening their knowledge and skills in research implementation, research monitoring, data analysis, and preparation of research publications. Selected from a competitive field of over 70 applications, the six HRTP fellows will work under the guidance and mentorship of research experts.
The first class of fellows, includes: *Babazile Shongwe*, a research officer at the Ministry of Health; *Fortunate Magagula*, a lecturer in midwifery science at the University of Swaziland; *Mduduzi Ndlovu*, a research manager at the National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA); *Prudence Gwebu*, a pharmacist at the National TB Program; *Sikhathele Mazibuko*, a program officer at the Swaziland National AIDS Program (SNAP); and *Thabo Hlope*, a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the National Population Unit. The program is led by Dr. Harriet Nuwagaba-Biribonwoha, Research Director at ICAP in Swaziland. “Fellows will have valuable opportunities to learn about research from course work and hands-on experience,” she said, “and ICAP, with its extensive experience in conducting research, will provide the day-to-day support.”
The Health Research Training Program is a collaboration between ICAP, the Ministry of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Swaziland and is supported through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The central activities of HRTP are guided by an Advisory Board, comprised of members from the Ministry of Health, ICAP and CDC. ICAP has worked in Swaziland since 2006 helping to scale up comprehensive, family-centered HIV prevention and care and works closely with the MOH to support the development of many initiatives, including a country-owned research agenda.