Amsterdam UMC will lead a global group tasked with discovering treatments for chronic illnesses.

Chronic illnesses (NCDs) constitute a worldwide health crisis, with about 80% occurring in low- and middle-income nations. While the WHO has devised strategies to tackle chronic illnesses, research suggests that they are not having the expected effect in many places, leaving weak health systems more overloaded. To fight this, Amsterdam UMC will lead a worldwide partnership with the goal of designing treatments that work in practice, thanks to Horizon Europe funding.

Charles Agyemang, Consortium Leader and Professor of Global Migration, Ethnicity, and Health at Amsterdam UMC, observes, “We see particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa that the rates of chronic diseases are rapidly rising that, crucially, the WHO measures are not working as well as they should.” Because the majority of the data for these treatments were collected in high-income nations. This necessitates the creation of a new arsenal of interventions.”

The collaboration will focus on those aged 10 to 24 in order to design targeted treatments that will make the biggest effect. Partly because this group receives less attention in current WHO policy, but also, and significantly, because of the significance that this time of life plays in behavioral development.

Multifaceted strategy
The partnership includes partners from France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom, as well as universities and research organizations from Kenya and Ghana. The purpose is to create treatments that may be used in three different settings: secondary schools, family/faith-based settings, and social media.

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Amos Laar, a co-investigator and professor of public health nutrition at the University of Ghana, notes that “combating a very complex epidemic such as NCDs will require multi-component intervention concurrently targeting its multiple risk factors, involving multiple live stages, delivered via multiple platforms, and meaningfully and adequately engaging with multiple stakeholders.” That is precisely what the initiative aims to achieve.”

The World Bank estimates that about 50% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are not in school, implying that interventions must extend beyond the classroom or dining hall. Agyemang feels that this multifaceted strategy “will increase the motivation of young people to eat healthier and be more physically active” and, more importantly, “will increase the likelihood of long-term changes.”

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”The project embraces principles of co-design throughout the proposal development and implementation, as well as a highly consultative process that will promote uptake and sustainability of the program,” says Dr. Gershim Asiki, a co-investigator and Head of NCDs Unit in the African Population Health Research Centre in Kenya.

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