Morehouse School of Medicine is allying with businesses and hospitals to train physicians and medical technicians in sub-Saharan Africa, where infectious diseases – and now cardiovascular diseases – are a growing problem.

Global Healthcare Alliance LLC is a partnership between Grady Memorial Hospital, Emory University, Morehouse, medical companies and nonprofits to provide training, laboratory certification and technology support in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.

On July 12, the initiative held an inaugural reception to discuss the alliance and solidify its mission. 

Medical companies such as Iverson Genetic Diagnostics will help with laboratory diagnosis training. Georgia Bio, a nonprofit that facilitates relationships among member organizations to promote life sciences in the state, will identify additional partners and resources.

Helping make these connections is at the heart of the nonprofit’s mission, said Charles Craig, president of Georgia Bio.

“One of the things we do as an organization is promote the mission and research efforts that go on at a university,” he said.

Most research institutions in the state, including Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, are members of Georgia Bio.   

Global Healthcare Alliance comes at a time when African countries are dealing with more than just infectious diseases like malaria, HIV and tuberculosis, but also the growing burden of cardiovascular disease.

Elizabeth Ofili, a Morehouse professor who specializes in cardiology and founded the alliance, has noticed an increase in high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which contribute to heart disease, in her native country of Nigeria.

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular problems are mostly caused by tobacco use, physical inactivity and poor diet.

While this unhealthy lifestyle is usually seen in Western countries, it is also on the rise in developing countries like Nigeria, where the health organization says obesity levels are expected to continue to rise over the next five years.

Dr. Ofili said African countries lack medications and treatment that could prevent or control the diseases, further contributing to the increase.

Dr. Ofili was working in Nigeria before the alliance’s launch this year. As part of a team of professors and physicians from Morehouse, she traveled to Nigeria in 2009 at the invitation of the government to evaluate five teaching hospitals.

The team offered strategic plans for workforce and infrastructure development and returned in 2010 for follow-up meetings. Dr Ofili said the group intends to return again this year. 

During a speech at Morehouse on July 12, Oladipo Akinkugbe, a doctor and professor from Nigeria, highlighted the extensive health challenges in Africa.

On a publicity tour for his book, “Footprints and Footnotes,” which chronicles his own journey as a physician in Nigeria, Dr. Akinkugbe told an audience of 80 professors and students that one problem is the “brain drain,” an exodus of trained physicians from the continent. 

Motioning to Dr. Ofili, he lightheartedly pointed out that many doctors leave Nigeria to make contributions elsewhere but noted that many initiatives are attempting to address Africa’s lack of leadership in the medical field. 

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