"Partnerships are everything; partners come in with different views and improve services."
- Dr Helen Kariuki, University of Nairobi, Kenya
Despite the need for methodologically robust palliative care research in Africa to inform the teaching and delivery of effective and appropriate care, the architectural infrastructure needed to enable the development of that evidence base is largely absent.
To address this weakness, and generously funded by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, last week the African Palliative Care Association held the inaugural meeting of the African Palliative Care Research Network (APCRN) in Kampala, Uganda. With participants from across the continent, Europe and North America, one of the central aims of the meeting was to bring together and secure buy-in to the APCRN from established African palliative care and health researchers. However, other aims included to:
To move the work forward, the network formed a Steering Committee based around four sub-regional African academic hubs (i.e. Uganda in the east; Nigeria in the west; South Africa in the south; and Egypt in the north), and hubs in Europe (assisted further by the European Association of Palliative Care's Task Force on Palliative Care in Africa: Fostering collaboration and partnership) and North America.
Additionally, in the course of the meeting's deliberations, it was highly refreshing to learn that there is a body of existing and ongoing research that has, and is, being developed, some of which (like the development of the APCA African Children's Palliative Outcome Scale) is ground-breaking. Importantly, the meeting also resulted in a consensus that:
As one of the European participants, Professor Lukas Radbruch, of the Department of Palliative Medicine at the University Hospital of Bonn, remarked after the meeting: "There is so much to be gained with partnerships … Partnerships have helped me to look at different cultures and thus be aware of underlying assumptions in my work to formulate good research questions."
It is anticipated that the APCRN will not only facilitate the generation of important research questions, addressing comparatively the pressing and diversified needs of people across the continent, but will also be the launch pad to accelerate the development of palliative care research in Africa.