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Breaking New Ground- PAVE Study Community Engagement Efforts in Blantyre District

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PAVE StudyThe Ministry of Health and Population (MoH) through Blantyre District Health Office is working with the Malawi Liverpool Welcome Trust (MLW), UNICEF and WHO to evaluate the effectiveness of a WHO approved PCV13 vaccine schedule of 2+1 given at 6 weeks, 14 weeks and 9 months. This evaluation has been necessitated by the high carriage of pneumococcus amongst children who receive PCV 13 vaccine following the current 3+0 schedule at 6, 10 and 14 weeks.

As part of the public engagement strategy, the PAVE study team with support from the Science Communications department organised public awareness meetings with community leaders around the health facilities where the study will be implemented in Blantyre District. These meetings were aimed at briefing the community leaders, getting their buy in on the community approaches and ensure cordial working relationships. Majority of the facilities had no prior working relationship with MLW.


Speaking during a meeting at Dziwe Health Centre, Blantyre District Health Education Officer Chrissy Banda commended MLW for ensuring that there is community participation in the process towards launch of the study.

“This is a very good gesture. Communities need to form an integral part of the process so that the correct information is given out to the public,” she said.

Banda went further to advice MLW to ensure that this kind of engagement should continue throughout the study period. She emphasized that it is important for organizations conducting research to come back and give feedback to communities so that they are not suspicious of what is happening.

And speaking after the meeting organized at Lundu Health Centre, Chair for Blantyre District Health and Environment Committee Councillor Akima Mustafa Chipwatali of Linjidzi Ward expressed her gratitude to MLW and the District Health Office for ensuring that local leaders are briefed about such initiatives.

“Our appeal to MLW is that they must continue to interact with local leaders to ensure that there is high participation in research studies in order to help improve health services in the country,” she said.

All the participants in the meetings appreciated the information shared and recognized. They further urged MLW to conduct more meetings targeting communities to ensure that the message reaches all the people.

The meetings were conducted at 28 Health Centers in Blantyre and included facilities in both the urban and rural areas. A total of 970 participants attended the meetings. Some of the local leaders included ward councillors, mother care group, health advisory committee members and health facility staff member.


Kondwani Jambo Awarded MRC Research Leader Award

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Dr Kondwani JamboMLW’s Viral Immunology group lead Dr Kondwani Jambo will receive funding for four years to pursue research which is designed to address priority health problems of people in Sub-Saharan Africa under the prestigious Medical Research Council (MRC)/DFID African Research Leader (ARL) Award.

Under this scheme, Dr Jambo aims to contribute to the development of new vaccines to maximise the health benefits of pneumococcal disease control in Low- and Medium-Income Countries, where current vaccines have not had the expected impact.

“My immediate-term plan after this award is to start developing a skill base within my group focusing on systems immunology, as a way to understand how the body controls pneumococcal carriage in high transmission settings. Systems immunology is a new and rapidly developing field of research providing a more integrated perspective of the immune system. We will soon be advertising a PhD studentship under the ARL award for a highly talented African student to work in this exciting area. The long-term plan is to lead vaccine trials focusing on shortening duration and reducing density of pneumococcal carriage in HIV-infected adults on antiretroviral therapy,” said Jambo.

LSTM’s Director Professor David Lalloo said: “These awards highlight LSTM’s commitment to strengthen research excellence in sub-Saharan Africa by supporting and encouraging talented individuals. I am delighted for Kondwani that he has been recognised as the research leader that he is, and I am confident that we will see even greater achievements in the future.”


Getting to Know Our Staff: Dr. Deborah Nyirenda

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NyirendaRecently, Behaviour and Health research group social scientist Deborah Nyirenda attained her PhD in Public Health. Pauline Mlogeni (PM) had a chat with her (DN) to understand her work and the job that she does at MLW.

PM: What is your job title?

DN: I am a postdoctoral social scientist funded by Global Health Bioethics Network.


PM: What do you do in your job?

DN: My job involves four things: social science research, drafting publications, applying for grants and mentoring junior social scientists. I am currently developing a research that aims to generate evidence to strengthen ethical community engagement or public and patients’ involvement in health research conducted in low literacy settings.


PM: When did you start working at MLW?

DN: I joined MLW in 2010 as a Social Scientist. I have attained my Masters Degree and PhD since then.

PM: You recently attained your PhD. Tell us what it is all about and how it will help you to contribute towards MLW’s outcomes.

DN: My PhD examined community engagement in health research in Malawi. My thesis demonstrated how the socio-economic, political and historical contextual features influence the procedures and outcomes of community engagement initiatives. This work is important to MLW and other research institutions in low resource settings because it identified gaps in contemporary community engagement practices to protect community’s interests and promote mutual benefit sharing in health research.


PM: What are your immediate and long-term plans after your PhD?

DN: I plan to set up an associate research group that focuses on research on bioethics and community engagement/public and patients’ involvement in health research.


Congratulations, Deborah!