‘Use research to solve health issues’

BY: Samuel K. Obour

Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has observed that as population grows, new health issues will emerge, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Consequently, he has urged scientists in the region to engage in rigorous research to find lasting solutions to the problems as they arose, while at the same time, governments must invest heavily in higher education, especially in the sciences.

He made the observation at a lecture organised by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), under the vice chancellor’s occasional lecture series. 

He spoke on the topic, "Continuing and New Challenges in Global Health".The lecture formed part of activities marking the 65th Anniversary of the University of Ghana. 

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Prof. Piot gave an insight into the global health changes that had taken place over the last decades as cities developed and mentioned for instance the prevalence of diseases, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.

He observed that although other parts of the world were experiencing high growth rate and development, sub-Saharan Africa continued to face considerable challenges in terms of infectious diseases, maternal and child health and under-nutrition. 

These, Prof. Piot attributed to climate change caused by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rapidly rising environmental degradation, health precipitation, heat waves, floods, among others.

He noted that although new technologies were emerging, people continued to die from infectious diseases, as well as stroke, diabetes and tuberculosis globally. 

He observed, however, that AIDS was less prevalent now than previously because a lot of research had been conducted in that area. A caveat to this, he said, was the avoidance of complacency, especially when there were still people in Africa who did not have access to anti-retroviral drugs.

The panacea is what he described as ‘Global Health 4.0’ in his conclusion. This, he explained as the building of centres of excellence, engaging in circular migration, moving from discovery to innovation and adapting an interdisciplinary approach to research as a means of combating prevailing diseases across the globe.

From 1991 to 1994, Dr Piot was president of the International AIDS Society. In 1992, he became Assistant Director of the World Health Organisation's Global Programme on HIV/AIDS, then on December 12, 1994, he was appointed Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations.