‘Where will we go now?’ This, said Marcel Tanner, the Chair for the third plenary, was a question that the session could help decide. EDCTP was hoping to learn from the views that would be expressed both by panellists offering the perspectives of their sectors, and by contributors from the floor.
To set the stage, Mark Palmer (MRC UK; chair of the EDCTP General Assembly) summarised the discussion of Monday’s High-Level Meeting, as well as feedback received from other sources, such as at the High-Level Meeting last month in Dakar which engaged many African EDCTP member countries. He said there was a general sense of a momentum that would drive EDCTP forward to a successor programme.
EDCTP received the support of several member countries, including our Portuguese hosts; there is a general appreciation of EDCTP’s focus on partnership. Indeed, ‘partnership’ has been the most consistently mentioned positive attribute of EDCTP’s work. The networks of excellence have also been widely praised; they develop synergies between countries and enable the sharing of resources.
Therefore, there is clear consensus on the need for a third programme to complete what we have started. EDCTP has ‘unfinished business’ regarding poverty-related infectious diseases and research capacity development. The consensus is that under a future programme we would need more strategic coordination of efforts through stronger public-public and public-private partnerships. African governments need to increase their investments in science, establish their own national research agendas and meet the existing commitments to direct a part of the health budget to health research.
Amongst the many wishes expressed for a successor programme have been:
- for EDCTP to give more support to effectiveness studies in real life environments;
- for EDCTP to be more actively involved in ensuring that new products reach those who most need them, through implementation and scale-up research;
- support for research based on good epidemiological monitoring or disease surveillance;
- multi-agency and regional approaches.
But what should realistically be the scope of the proposed EDCTP3? Many have called for it to include non-communicable diseases. The programme has established a way of working that could indeed be extended to other diseases, but should it be EDCTP that takes on the non-communicable diseases? To do this, it would need an entirely different level of investment and involve very different approaches to disease prevention. More emphasis on implementation and scale-up research would require much larger investments and involvement of African governments.
We have to be realistic about what a single programme with limited resources can achieve. We need to maintain our core focus while become more effective through regional approaches, developing networks and establishing new partnerships.
EDCTP3 will undoubtedly remain focused on infectious diseases in the context of the health realities of African populations with multimorbidities rising also from non-communicable diseases.
Mark Palmer was looking forward to hearing other views and concluded that most importantly the political will is there for a third programme. EDCTP’s partners and its researchers equally see the value of the programme to continue.