T-REC symposium: Strengthening transfusion research capacity in Africa
A T-REC symposium, part of the 7th Congress of the African Society for Blood Transfusion (AfSBT), took place earlier this week in Zimbabwe. Organised by the LSTM based T-REC consortium, the symposium hosted more than 50 delegates to discuss strengthening African research on blood transfusion.
LSTM Professor Imelda Bates, the Principal Investigator of the T-REC consortium, facilitated the open session, which was attended by blood service staff, scientists, clinicians, commercial companies, students, and representatives from professional organisations, universities and Ministries of Health.
The purpose of this latest T-REC symposium was to pool ideas from a broad and diverse range of blood service stakeholders about the next steps to achieve this goal and to find out how the T-REC consortium could most effectively support the process.The symposium provided an opportunity to share experiences of conducting transfusion research in Africa and discuss challenges and potential solutions. It also allowed participants to propose ideas for strengthening the capacity of transfusion services to conduct and use research and to find out how T-REC could contribute further by convening a strategic meeting early in 2015.
Professor Banji Adewuyi, Editor-in-Chief of Africa Sanguine, gave a brief orientation for participants on the importance and role of research in improving blood services in Africa. For the rest of the symposium, participants worked in small groups of up to eight people to focus on issues such as the key challenges for blood services in conducting transfusion research; how to overcome these challenges; research impact on blood service policies and improving practices and how to strengthen the capacity of blood services through an Africa-wide programme.
To see the full report from this symposium click here
T-REC’s African partners are AfSBT and the national blood services in Ghana and Zimbabwe; EU partners are the University of Copenhagen/National Blood Service, Denmark and the University of Groningen, Netherlands. The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK is responsible for coordination of the consortium.
T-REC is an international consortium of academics and health practitioners working to strengthen the capacity of African researchers to do research on blood transfusion. T-REC works in Ghana and Zimbabwe and is a four-year project (2011-2015) funded by the EU Commission.
“Blood transfusion is a hugely important issue for all health services
and it is very expensive so we have to get it right.
It is neglected in terms of having evidence-based practice.”
Imelda Bates, Principal Investigator, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
What is the problem?
Blood banking in Africa is hampered by the lack of safe and stable blood donors and by varying and inconsequential infectious disease screening. In Africa, only a few researchers are qualified to carry out research on blood transfusion, which restricts national efforts to improve blood supply and safety standards.
Evidence used to guide policy and practice has almost exclusively been generated by Europe and North America, and is often inappropriate for African contexts.
At a workshop in Mombasa, Kenya in 2008, transfusion service stakeholders from Africa identified and prioritised the research they needed to generate appropriate evidence. A disturbing conclusion was that African transfusion services had very little indigenous research capacity at any level and lacked research strategies. They were simply not able to generate much-needed evidence.
What does T-REC do?
T-REC supports African researchers to carry out locally appropriate research into blood transfusion. It brings together African transfusion practitioners and managers who have in-depth knowledge of the needs and challenges of their transfusion services, with academics experienced in designing and conducting international quality research. The project addresses a specific need - identified by national blood transfusion services in Ghana and Zimbabwe - to increase capacity to conduct research that meets local health priorities. It is also hoped that research findings will influence local policy and practice.
“Blood transfusion is an essential component of modern health care which saves millions of lives each year in Ghana. Although the need for blood is universal, in Africa and the developing world, the pattern of blood usage differs markedly from that of the Western World. It is important we have an evidence base to make sure we get our blood services right in Africa, not using things that have only been tried and tested in the Western world.”
Justina Ansah, Director National Blood Service, Ghana