News Center for Dissemination & Implementation

Center builds bridges in African implementation science

Written by Jamie Macon, WashU HIGH IRI coordinator, and Nisha Nadesanreddy, program coordinator, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Program co-directors Hikabasa Halwiindi, far left, Elvin Geng, and Mosa Moshabela, far right, welcome keynote speaker, Elizabeth Bukusi

Several leaders from WashU’s Center for Dissemination and Implementation recently attended a conference and launch of the African HIV, Infectious Diseases and Global Health Implementation Research Institute (Afri-HIGH-IRI) hub. Hosted in Umhlanga, Durban, South Africa in April, the event included a two-day “Train the Trainers” workshop, marking a pivotal moment in the advancement of implementation science in Africa.

Hosted by a consortium of leading institutions including the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Zambia, Washington University St. Louis, and others, the workshop convened a diverse cohort of emerging and seasoned faculty to spearhead a new era in implementation science on the African continent. Participants helped redefine the boundaries of implementation science, particularly within the African context; and esteemed professors such as Elvin Geng, Mosa Moshabela, and Hikabasa Halwiindi spoke in front of approximately 32 attendees representing a rich tapestry of academic backgrounds and experiences.

Moshabela commented that it is important to introduce the culture of implementation science in countries like South Africa because a major gap exists between policy and implementation. “We are now drawing on the scholarship of implementation science to enhance our capability and capacity to succeed in translating knowledge and evidence into practice and impact, ” he said.

Participants engaged in a series of sessions designed to achieve three primary objectives:

  1. Advancing Regional Careers: Recognizing the diverse pathways within the African academic landscape, discussions centered on how Afri-HIGH-IRI can best support the career development of regional talent.
  2. Prioritizing Training and Mentoring: Tailoring priorities and perspectives in training and mentoring to meet regional needs and leverage existing faculty assets and opportunities.
  3. Enhancing Methodological Expertise: Through pod-based workstreams, participants delved into high-impact projects aimed at contributing regional perspectives to the field of implementation research.
Afri-HIGH-IRI conference attendees

The workshop’s agenda was as ambitious as it was inspiring, with sessions covering everything from the intricacies of health systems to the integration of implementation science and mixed methods approaches. But the real magic happened in the “pods” – small groups named after trees like Marula and Acacia – where participants collaborated on high-impact projects destined to make waves in the field.

Day two featured an inspiring keynote address by Professor Elizabeth Bukusi from KEMRI, who shared insights on mentorship in implementation science within the African context. This was followed by discussions on casting the vision of the Afri-HIGH-IRI hub, with a focus on developing a mentorship culture and addressing barriers and facilitators to success.

A highlight of the workshop was a public lecture by HIGH IRI Associate Program Director and Boston College Professor, Whitney Irie, who shared lessons from the United States HIV response, emphasizing the importance of innovations such as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention. She also discussed HIV testing and linkage-to-care.

Attendees included: Mosa Moshabela, Juliet Katoba, Jabulani Ncayiyana, and Nisha Nadesan-Reddy from University of KwaZulu-Natal; representing University of Zambia were Hikabasa Halwiindi, Wilbroad Mutale, Choolwe Jacobs, Joseph Zulu, Isaac Fwemba, Margarate Munakampe, Patricia Maritim, Michael Herce and Adam Silumbwe.

The U.S. contingency included Elvin Geng, Jamie Macon, Thomas Odeny, Betsy Abente and Aaloke Mody from Washington University in St. Louis; Whitney Irie from Boston College and Radhika Sundararajan from Cornell University; Alison Castle, affiliated with Harvard University and African Health Research Institute in South Africa; and Carolyn Audet from Vanderbilt University. Other attendees were Elizabeth Bukusi from Kenya Medical Research Institute; Nyanyiwe Mbeye from Kamuzu University of Health Sciences in Malawi; Tammy Phillips from University of Cape Town; Halima Bello-Manga from Kaduna State University in Nigeria; Tonderai Mabuto from Aurum Institute; and Jose Tique from Friends in Global Health in Mozambique.

The journey is just beginning. With plans underway to launch the Afri-HIGH-IRI training program in 2024-25, the stage is set for a new chapter in implementation science in Africa. Armed with a deep understanding of the importance of context and interdisciplinary collaboration, the Afri-HIGH-IRI team is poised to make waves in the global health arena.

As members of the HIGH IRI community, WashU cohort leaders couldn’t be prouder to be part of this groundbreaking initiative. “It was a real privilege to see this vibrant network continue to grow” said Elvin Geng, director of WashU’s Center for Dissemination & Implementation.  “It’s a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and a shared commitment to advancing health care for all.  So, here’s to breaking new ground, forging new partnerships, and paving the way for a journey toward a healthier, more equitable future.”