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New research project between AstraZeneca and CISL to study the impact of air quality on respiratory, oncological and cardiovascular disease prevalence in Uganda

last modified Jul 30, 2020 02:22 PM
28 July 2020 – A new Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellow has been appointed to lead research exploring strategies to reduce outdoor air pollution in Uganda and promote healthy communities through evidence-based policies and citizen science.

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and AstraZeneca jointly launched the new project, which is part of The Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellowship Programme, and will be led by Prince of Wales Fellow Dr Gabriel Okello.

During his Fellowship, Dr Okello will collect data in two locations in Uganda (Kampala, Jinja) and compare strategies in these locations to air quality management efforts in London and other African cities. By creating a platform for knowledge sharing among key air pollution stakeholders in Uganda, the study aims to increase the ability of health practitioners to manage the impact of air quality on respiratory, oncological and cardiovascular disease prevalence. Dr Okello will develop his research with input from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge and the Global Public Health Research Programme at Makerere University, as well as other stakeholders across Cambridge and Uganda.

Professor Jason Snape, Head of Environmental Protection at AstraZeneca commented: 

“Air pollution is one of the major challenges to public health in the 21st century. I am excited to see this programme get underway and to learn from Dr Okello’s research into this intersection between health and the environment as a key aspect of AstraZeneca’s approach to sustainability. This initiative is another example of a strong partnership between AstraZeneca and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, aiming to advance our knowledge in interpreting air quality data and how this could assist in management of patients with respiratory disease,”

Dr Jake Reynolds, Executive Director, Research, CISL said: 

“We are delighted to welcome Dr Okello to lead this important research programme at CISL. Understanding how to beat air pollution in a challenging urban environment such as Kampala will benefit from lessons arising from all across the world, particularly other African cities themselves. Through our reach into Cambridge’s MRC Epidemiology Unit and expert teams at Makerere University in Kampala, we anticipate this project leading to fresh insights suitable for translation into local and national policy – and hence business action among polluting industries. Building on our successful cooperation with AstraZeneca in Kenya to reduce cooking-related emissions, we look forward to addressing a broader range of pollutants in this study, including from the transport system,”

Dr Gabriel Okello, Prince of Wales Global Sustainability Fellow, CISL said:

“The purpose of this project is to study the interconnectivity between environmental health and disease with a view to helping foster healthier and safer communities. I’m delighted to lead this project which has the wider ambition to raise public awareness of air pollution exposure and inform stakeholders across African cities when formulating evidence-based policies addressing outdoor air pollution, as well as guiding health professionals when interpreting air quality data in the management of patients with respiratory disease,” 

Outdoor air pollution accounts for an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths per year, creating a significant burden on public health systems (WHO, 2018). Building on existing work, this study will explore strategies to reduce outdoor air pollution in Uganda. Despite experiencing severe outdoor air pollution in urban areas, Uganda lacks substantive capacity for air quality monitoring and assessment. Public awareness on the status and effects of air pollution in the country is low, particularly in secondary cities such as Jinja despite evident high levels of outdoor air pollution.

AstraZeneca has been working with health stakeholders to ensure quality of care in Africa for over 27 years, and in Uganda for over 20 years across three main therapy areas: Respiratory; Cardiovascular, Renal and Metabolism (CVRM) and Oncology. In May 2020, Uganda became the fifth African country to participate in AstraZeneca’s Healthy Heart Africa programme, following implementation in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana. In collaboration with the Ugandan Ministry of Health (MoH), the partnership aims to strengthen the provision of services for managing and preventing hypertension in Uganda, using MoH guidelines to standardise care and upskilling health workers through training. The programme will also work to increase education and awareness of high blood pressure and lifestyle risk factors for CVD.

Through the work of its Centres and research programme, CISL is committed to finding pathways to a net zero, circular and restorative economy within an inclusive, resilient society. This Fellowship underpins CISL’s focus on building more inclusive, resilient societies through the development of evidence that enables policymakers to partner with businesses to establish system-wide sustainability solutions.

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