This July, the first round of Fellows in the Swaziland Health Research Training Program (HRTP) completed the program and the second round of scholars and mentors were enrolled. Founded in 2013, HRTP was established by the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland’s Ministry of Health (MoH) and ICAP, with support from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
In Swaziland, the health sector is faced with growing challenges, particularly due to the burden of TB, HIV and non-communicable disease and limited resources. There is also a lack of domestic research on public health and few health professionals are capable of utilizing research data to adapt and execute new programs. This limited local research capacity makes it difficult to address gaps in research development, implementation and utilization.
To address these challenges, Swaziland is expanding health research activities to address these questions which are relevant to public health. The Health Research Training Program aims to broaden the skills of Swaziland’s mid-career public health professionals from government and partner institutions in Swaziland by equipping them with practical skills in protocol development, research implementation and monitoring, good clinical practice, data analysis, and scientific writing. Fellows receive didactic and practical training and work under the guidance of mentors with significant experience in research methods and implementation.
“It is sort of like paying it forward,” said Faith Dlamini, MPH, who served as a mentor in the first year of HRTP and will also mentor the new group of fellows. “We are passing on skills to a new group and we are learning things as well,” she said.
By building on research accomplishments, the program will ensure a well-trained team of professionals can continue to carry the research agenda in Swaziland.
“It is critical to address the limited availability of researchers in Swaziland and build in-country research capacity overtime,” said Dr. Harriet Nuwagaba-Biribonwoha, director of research at ICAP in Swaziland who is also leading HRTP implementation. “Once we create the capacity, new questions begin and from there, we can shape the future of public health.” The program is also a critical platform for meaningful engagement of Swazi health care workers in research. So far, all fellows in the first group have been offered opportunities to participate as co-investigators on ICAP, MoH and partner research protocols.
ICAP has supported the scale-up of comprehensive HIV prevention and care in Swaziland since 2005 and works with the MOH to develop a number of in-country initiatives, including research strategies and activities.
*We are pleased to be working with the new Fellows:* Bogani A. Dlamini,Wandile W. Dlamini, Gloria S. Dube, Sakhile S.K. Masuka, Bonisile S. Nsibandze, Zanele P. Nxumalo, Nomsa N. Shongwe.
*And we are grateful for the participation of the new Mentors:* Tony Ao, Faith Dlamini, Priscilla S. Dlamini, Harrison Kamiru, Kambale Jeff Mathe, Theresa Thembi Ntshakala, Harriet Nuwagaba-Biribonwoha, Sifiso Sithole.