We believe the key to creating successful health interventions is measuring and analyzing their impact. In our 10 years working in Rwanda, we have implemented innovative approaches to care in many areas from HIV treatment to newborn care to cancer care. Often these new approaches are firsts for Rwanda, Africa, or even the world. Our research team develops rigorous studies in these programs in order to measure their impact and look for methods to further improve patient outcomes . Additionally, we support Rwandan clinicians with ideas but not the technical expertise to publish research papers.
In 2007, we implemented an accompaniment based approach to treating patients living with HIV/AIDS. We trained community health workers to visit the homes of patients living with HIV/AIDS and asses their economic and social determinants of health. They talk with patients to learn if the patient is struggling to earn enough money to feed themselves and their family or if there are serious family issues that may affect their health. We work with the patient, community, and local government to address those issues. By studying this holistic, accompaniment based approach we were able to demonstrate improved patient outcomes. When compared to national statistics, patients treated by this approach had higher retention rates and lower viral load counts. With evidence in hand, we are able to better advocate to the government and grant organizations to scale this program beyond our supported districts. This study and others were made possible with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Over the years working with the Rwandan health system we encountered many clinicians who had ideas for research papers but lacked formal training and support to turn those thoughts into publishable studies. We decided to establish a program to accompany these clinicians from concept to publication. Every year, we invite 10 teams of physicians, technicians and Ministry of Health staff to participate in our 12-month research training program. Quarterly, we provide week-long in-person training sessions that provide a valuable transfer of skills from senior scientist from the United States to young Rwandan researchers. The training program covers the basics of research, best practices for data collection, analysis, and writing research papers. Throughout the year, our mentors guide them through the entire process. With the skills developed through training and support through mentorship, these research novices are able to generate valuable knowledge for Rwanda and the world.
Starting clinical trials
We are working with the Ministry of Health to build Rwanda’s capacity to conduct clinical trials. Currently we are conducting clinical trials in breast cancer and Hepatitis C. These trials allow new, life-saving medicine to be administered to patients in Rwanda and bolster Rwanda’s medical research capability.