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NIHR Global Health Research Centres Symposium Opens in Dhaka: Uniting Global Health Leaders

The NIHR Global Health Centres Symposium was inaugurated on 04 March 2024 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Hosted by icddr,b and supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, UK (NIHR) this premier event has convened 60 leading experts, thought leaders, and professionals from five global health centres in West Africa, Latin America, South Asia and South East Asia. Over the four days, the symposium promises engaging discussions, pioneering insights, and unparalleled networking opportunities, all aimed at fostering collaboration and shared learning among the NIHR Global Health Research Centres, NIHR, the UK Government’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), and other stakeholders. The focus is on combating Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)—such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, mental health disorders—and addressing the impacts of environmental changes.

The symposium showcases the concerted efforts of the NIHR Global Health Research Centres in addressing critical global health challenges. The West African Centre is focused on improving NCD control through research and policy development in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Niger. In Latin America, the focus is on community-based management of long-term conditions, employing innovative research and community engagement strategies. The Centre in Afghanistan and Pakistan aims to reduce premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and mental health disorders. Meanwhile, the India-Nepal Centre manages multiple long-term conditions, and the Centre in India, Indonesia and Bangladesh aims to tackle the dual challenges of rising NCDs and environmental changes — specifically focusing on the health impacts of increased water salinity in Bangladesh, air pollution in Indonesia, and heat stress and the public food procurement system in India. Each of the Centres are jointly led by UK institutions and LMIC institutions.

Dr Aliya Naheed, Scientist, icddr,b and Country Director, NIHR Global Research Centre for Non Communicable Diseases and Environmental Change, Bangladesh highlighted the importance of strengthening primary care for non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease among people living in coastal areas.

In her vote of thanks Dr Naheed said, “The ultimate goal of the Bangladesh centre is to build high quality research team in Bangladesh who would continue findings solutions to save more lives in future.”

Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, Executive Director at icddr,b, emphasized the symposium's importance, stating: "We stand at a pivotal moment in global health, where collaboration and innovation intersect to address the most pressing health challenges of our time. This symposium is a testament to our collective commitment to advancing health equity and research excellence across continents. Together, we are paving the way for innovative solutions that will shape the future of global health."

Professor Kara Hanson, NIHR Programme Director for Global Health Research, said, “NIHR’s investment in Global Health Research Centres is itself an important intervention, supporting researchers to generate new evidence on how to tackle the growing challenge of NCDs in low and middle-income countries, and how to develop sustainable capacity to undertake such research.”

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, MP, the Honourable Minister for the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of Bangladesh graced the occasion as Chief Guest. In his remark, he appreciated icddr,b and NIHR for organising the symposium. He said, “I can not think of a better country than Bangladesh to carry out research related to climate change and its impact. We say that we are the Ground Zero for climate change. This is probably the richest laboratory one can think of in terms of the impacts of climate change.”

“Unfortunately, health aspects particularly public health is not addressed in our national adaptation plan, and we would like to incorporate that, and to do so we need to have research.” – he added.”

H.E. Mr Matt Cannell, Acting High Commissioner, British High Commission in Bangladesh, have underscored the symposium's critical role in advancing global health.

H.E. Cannell in his address said, “I am delighted to see targeted investment in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Bangladesh and other countries by UK-funded Global Health Research. This will help tackle cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, mental disorders and other NCDs.”

NIHR Global Health Research Centre representatives, high officials from DHSCandThe British High Commission in Bangladesh, and national-level collaborators from Bangladesh including the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, scientists from icddr,b and academics from collaborating institutions participated in the inaugural programme.