NEW FUNDING: The Wits school of Public Health will be receiving a massive funding boost to sustain better biological research in Africa. Photo: Stock

NEW FUNDING: The Wits school of Public Health will be receiving a massive funding boost to sustain better biological research in Africa. Photo: Stock

The School of Public Health at Wits University will use an approximately R70-million cash injection to develop and improve bio-statistical skills among its researchers.

Biostatistics is the use of statistics in a wide range of topics in biology. In this case, Wits’ research will be geared towards addressing some of the continent’s most difficult health challenges.

The funds will be utilised by the Wits lead Sub-Saharan African Consortium for Advanced Bio-statistical Training, a group of mostly African and some European institutions.

Examples of funded research include genetic analysis of drug-resistant malaria across East and West Africa and developing mental health programmes in countries where there is little or no investment.

The programmes are led from universities and research institutes in Ghana, Kenya, Mali, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. All the programmes involve collaborations across the continent, including between French-speaking and English-speaking countries and with international research centres.

Professor Tobias Chirwa, of School of Public Health, is one of seven leading African researchers to receive major funding over five years to establish relevant research and training programmes across the continent. The funding comes from the Welcome Trust and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Chirwa, is the Head of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He said on the Wellcome Trust UK’s website: “In many African countries, there is a shortage of well-trained biostatisticians. The few people that are trained are often overwhelmed.

“In order to ensure that data is used to inform public health policy and practice for the benefit of the people in Africa, we need to prioritise training of African postgraduate biostatisticians who can provide the required analysis to a high standard.”

In total, the DELTAS Africa scheme has awarded over £46 million (approximately R92-million) to research over a period of five years.