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Queen Mary academics secure major funding from the National Institute for Health Research

A team of academics from Queen Mary University of London have successfully secured funding for a major research project led by Professor Andrew Prendergast from Queen Mary’s Blizard Institute and Dr Bwakura-Dangarembizi from the University of Zimbabwe.

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Image of African children holding hands. Credit:
Image of African children holding hands. Credit:

The project, Multimorbidity in Children with HIV and Severe Acute Malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, is to be funded from a £4.9 million grant from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The multi-institutional and multi-national research includes the Zvitambo Institute for Maternal and Child Health Research in Harare, the Tropical Gastroenterology and Nutrition Group (TROPGAN) in Zambia, the KEMRI Wellcome Trust Research Programme, which is a partnership between the Kenya Medical Research Institute and University of Oxford, as well as the University of Cambridge and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK, University of Washington in the USA, and Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Professor Kavita Datta and Dr Tim Brown, both from Queen Mary’s School of Geography will co-lead on the social science aspects of the project. Professor Paul Kelly from the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry will work on developing a Ready to Use Therapeutic Food product for children leaving hospital. The interdisciplinary research programme will be undertaken across three countries (Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya) and aims to promote survival, healthy growth, and development amongst children admitted to hospital with concurrent HIV and severe acute malnutrition (HIV-SAM).

The application builds on previous work undertaken in partnership with Zimbabwe and Zambia, which highlights the importance of the caregiving environment and wider social context to children’s chances of survival and healthy growth post-discharge.

The project has been designed as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) intervention, which brings together clinicians, nutritionists and social scientists (including anthropologists, geographers, health economists and social psychiatrists) to explore the combinations of therapeutic interventions that produce the most effective outcomes for the children.

Professor Andrew Prendergast from the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry said: “One in five children with HIV and severe malnutrition die in the year after discharge from hospital, despite receiving nutritional rehabilitation. We think that children with concurrent malnutrition and HIV need a more comprehensive package of care than they currently receive, to help promote convalescence during the vulnerable period after they leave hospital.”  

Dr Tim Brown, Reader in Health Geography at Queen Mary said: “The award from the NIHR is an exciting opportunity for us to continue the interdisciplinary work we have been engaged in with Andrew and his team in Zimbabwe since 2017. Starting with a relatively modest pilot grant, Kavita and I have helped to establish social science research as an important building block for implementing and evaluating complex interventions targeted at improving the survival chances and healthy development of children living in rural and urban areas of Zimbabwe. This project will also extend the geographical scope of our research in southern Africa.”


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