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Project to improve access to healthcare for persons with disabilities in Uganda

man in wheelchair
Photo: Heather H.

Professor Hannah Kuper has been awarded a prestigious Global Research Professorship by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to develop and test a new community-led intervention to improve health care for people with disabilities in Uganda.

The five-year project will be carried out in partnership with the Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Uganda Research Unit, Makerere University and Women and Children First.

Professor Kuper, Professor of Epidemiology and Co-Director of the International Centre for Evidence in Disability at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “I am so excited to get this award, and grateful to NIHR.

“There are one billion people with disabilities globally. We know that they have worse health on average and higher mortality rates, including during COVID, yet they face many barriers to accessing healthcare.

“This study will pioneer new approaches to improve healthcare access and avoid deaths for this too often neglected group.”

Evidence is growing that interventions to improve healthcare which are led by communities can be effective, low-cost and scalable. In this study, Professor Kuper will work with colleagues in Uganda to develop community groups of disabled people to identify problems and solutions, plan and implement those solutions, and then evaluate them. The aim is that this approach will reduce deaths and improve the health of disabled people.

Dr Peter Waiswa, Associate Professor at Makerere University, said: “This award is extremely exciting and will address many important issues for public health in Uganda.

“Supporting vulnerable people who are always left behind is a key priority for the government of Uganda and Sub-Saharan Africa at large. This funding will enable us to build new partnerships as we seek to identify and test a sustainable model to meet the needs of people with disabilities.”

The NIHR Research Professors and NIHR Global Research Professor awards support research leaders of the future across topics which strengthen and benefit health, public health and care research leadership at the highest academic levels. For the Global Research Professorships, the research must be for the primary and direct benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries. Professor Kuper is one of just eight leading researchers to have received an award in this year’s cohort.

Professor Waljit Dhillo, Dean for NIHR Academy and recipient of a NIHR Research Professorship from 2015-20, said: “I’m delighted to warmly welcome our latest cohort of NIHR Research Professors and NIHR Global Research Professors. As leaders in their fields, these outstanding individuals will play a key role in improving the health and care of people not only in the UK but around the world.”

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