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Advancing statistical skills using R within Malawi - by and with MLW Malaria group members

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R StoryAs part of the WHO-WMO Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) Project, the Ministry of Health conducted a five day R-training course from 6th to 10th March 2017 sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The training was facilitated by James Chirombo, an MLW Malaria group PhD candidate in statistics based at Lancaster University, and Lucia Fernandez Montoya from the WHO head office in Geneva. 


Held at the Innovation Hub within University of Malawi's Polytechnic, the training was attended by over 20 participants, including three members of MLW Malaria group (Kamunkhwala Gausi, Donnie Mategula and Latif Ndeketa) and delegates from Ministry of Health District Health Offices, Central Monitoring and Evaluation Division (CMED), World Health Organization Malawi country office and The Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services.

R is an open source programming language and software environment for statistical computing and graphics that is supported by the R Foundation for Statistical Computing. The R language is widely used among statisticians and data miners for developing statistical software and data analysis.

The training aimed to increase capacity in the Ministry of Health and other collaborating institutions for analyzing and integrating climate and health data in R. The content of the training included an introduction to R-studio environment, descriptive statistics, plotting, data cleaning and exploring the association between disease and climate seasonality. The specific goal of the training was to analyze the seasonality of the climate in relation to the most important diseases in the country by district to serve as the basis for the development of district-targeted Health Advisories.

The facilitators encouraged participants to share their work experience and knowledge and helped make the practical exercises easy and relevant to all. The trainees were also introduced and added to a chat website called Slack where participants share R code and assist each other in decoding errors encountered in R.

Commenting on the value of the training, Kamunkhwala, an MSc student in Biostatistics statistics from Chancellor College, currently doing her MSc thesis project with MLW, said “The course content was just right for an introduction to R and the facilitators did a great job to explain the content and encourage interaction. The Slack website is a great community where I can always go to whenever I am stuck. I found the course really valuable”.


Wellcome Trust – Bloomsbury Centre for Global Health Research hosts its seventh successful scientific meeting

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From LSHTM Website

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The Wellcome Trust – Bloomsbury Centre for Global Health Research held its seventh highly successful scientific meeting on the shores of Lake Malawi from 21-23 March 2017. Attended by more than 80 participants, the meeting brought together the Centre’s fellows, their sponsors, supervisors and collaborators from around the world and across scientific disciplines together with Centre steering group, representatives from the Wellcome Trust and colleagues and collaborators from Malawi.

The meeting’s strength lies in the breadth and depth of the research projects and trials presented and their varied geographical locations. The result was a wide-ranging, diverse and thought provoking programme of the highest quality spanning HIV/TB and infection, maternal and child health and nutrition, mental health, eye health, helminths, non – communicable diseases and health systems. The meeting and its location provided a fantastic opportunity and ideal environment in which to share research, forge new working relationships and develop future collaborations.

Hosted by Professor Liz Corbett, Wellcome Senior Research Fellow based in Malawi the Programme included a dedicated session to the range and depth of research taking place in Malawi. Through a combination of detailed in depth presentations and shorter, dynamic speed talks the meeting was able to learn about the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme, MEIRU – Malawi Epidemiology and Intervention Research Unit, the MORDOR trials – Mortality Reduction After Oral Azithromycin: Mortality Study and the STAMP trial.

We were delighted that Charles Mwansambo, Chief of Health and Andrew Dimba, Senior Disease Control Officer from the Malawi Ministry of Health and Branwen Hennig and Bibi Oni from Wellcome were able to join us and contribute to a very productive and enjoyable meeting.


Comment on Wellcome Trust Bloomsbury Centre Scientific meeting


Hazel Dockrell, Special Advisor on Overseas Programmes in Africa, LSHTM
The Wellcome Trust funded Bloomsbury Centre for Global Health Research held its two yearly scientific meeting at Club Makokola, Mangochi, in Malawi, from 21-23 March 2017, with 82 participants. As always, this was a stimulating and impressive meeting that demonstrated the excellence of the projects being undertaken by both WT fellows and clinical PhD students. These are not focussed in a few centres but based worldwide – most in Africa but also in India, Vietnam, the Solomon Islands, Peru. The meeting also showcased research in Malawi at the College of Medicine and the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Major Overseas Programme, and at MEIRU, based in Lilongwe and Chilumba. The breadth of topics is a feature of this Centre, with sessions covering HIV, TB/HIV, TB, helminths and allergy, maternal and child health, child health and nutrition, eye infection, and non- communicable diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and mental health as well as cross-cutting topics such as health systems. As the Centre includes St Georges, UCL, Queen Mary and the Institute of Psychiatry as partners, senior members of these institutions also provide supervision, advice and mentorship. The Centre’s fellows are innovative, operating in diverse settings and have found solutions to some unexpected problems including how to catch a lemur to take a blood sample.


Three Malaria Group members awarded travel awards to attend a course in Vaccinology

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Vaccinology stories

 Drs. Latif Ndeketa, Donnie Mategula and Alinane Menyenyembe, members of the Malaria Research Group have recently been given a travel grant to attend the 2017 Vaccinology in Africa short course that will take place from 24 to 28th April. The course will be held at Makerere University/UVRI Infection and Immunity Research Training Programme (MUII) in Entebbe Uganda. This course is jointly organised by the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford and the host African research institute, and supported by the Jenner Vaccine Foundation.


The course alternates between African regions, and previous courses have been held at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, Ghana (2013), at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya (2014) and the Malaria Research and Training Centre & Centre d’Infectiologie Charles Mérieux in Bamako, Mali (2015).

The Vaccinology short courses are specifically aimed at students, researchers and professional residents in Africa. They cover the main aspects of vaccinology, the vaccine development process, bio-manufacturing, regulatory and ethical issues. The course also resonates with the ‘One Health’ agenda by highlighting human and veterinary links and synergies between the two fields from scientific, technological and regulatory perspectives. The current confirmed speakers of the course have an exceptional faculty of academic and industrial speakers from within Africa and Europe and they teach in such a way that it meets a master’s level standard.

The 2017 course received a total of 268 applications and 20 bursaries have given to residents from East African countries which include Latif, Donnie and Alinane.

“As a vaccinologist, this is a wonderful opportunity for me to network and learn with other leading vaccine experts in Eastern Africa and enhance my knowledge of vaccines from concept to post-licensure from an African perspective, said Latif.