Press Release: Ethiopia Marks Public Health Milestone With First Cohort of Post-Doctoral and Implementation Fellows in Maternal and Child Health
Minister of Health Dr. Lia Tadesse recognizes the HaSET program in successfully implementing the first post-doctoral and implementation fellowship in maternal and child health in the history of Ethiopia, launching the next generation of public health researchers in a country with a population of over 120 million.
October 26, 2023
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Ethiopia is the second-largest nation in Africa with a population of over 120 million and has been one of the fastest growing economies worldwide over the past decade. Despite this, Ethiopia is one of five countries accounting for more than half of the global under-five deaths, with 173,000 child deaths each year, 80,000 of which occur in the neonatal period. Additionally, 14,000 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth each year. HaSET (“happiness” in Amharic) is a research organization bringing together world-leading institutions Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), Saint Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College (SPHMMC), Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), and Boston Children’s Hospital Harvard Medical School (BCH/HMS) to discover and deliver actionable and sustainable improvements in health outcomes for women and children through research, capacity building, and collaboration.
Over the past five years, HaSET has developed and launched the HaSET Maternal and Child Health Research Program, a capacity-building program to seed the next generation of public health researchers in maternal and child health in Ethiopia. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the program selected a cohort of five postdoctoral fellows from Ethiopian institutions and four implementation fellows from the Ministry of Health. This is the first postdoctoral program in maternal and child health in the history of Ethiopia. These trailblazing individuals participating in the program are poised to change the trajectory of lives in Ethiopia across multiple generations.
In an innovative approach, the program combined academic rigor with policy impact. The Fellows completed a curriculum with nine modules, including research methodology, translating evidence to policy, scientific communication, and professional development with nested field visits, analysis, and writing workshops. These modules were led by senior public health researchers, including Professors Yifru Berhan, MD (from SPHMMC and prior Minister of Health in Ethiopia), Richard Cash, MD (from HSPH and renowned for his role developing oral rehydration solution that has saved millions of lives), Professor Delayehu Bekele, MD, MPH (from SPHMMC, prior President of Ethiopian Society of Obstetrician and Gynecologists), Sebastien Hanuese, PhD (from HSPH, Biostatistician with expertise on the analysis of large complex observational studies), Alemayehu Worku, PhD (from Addis Ababa University, leading biostatistician in Ethiopia with expertise on study design, analysis of national surveys and complex trials), Theodros Getachew, PhD (from EPHI, Director of the Health System and Reproductive Health Directorate), Lisanu Taddesse, MD, MPH (from HaSET, Program Director), Kassahun Alemu, PhD, (from HaSET, prior Director of the Institute of Public Health at Gondar University, and Grace Chan, MD, PhD (from HSPH, BCH/HMS, HaSET PI).
The HaSET Scientific Advisory Group provided guidance on the curriculum and overall program. Members of the Group were Professors Damen Haile Mariam, PhD (Dean Addis Ababa University School of Public Health), Muluemebet Abera, PhD (Dean of Jumma University School of Public Health), Alemnesh Mirkuzie, PhD (from JSI, former Director of the National Data Management Center, Ethiopia), Tsinuel Girma, MD, PhD (Director of Fenot, HSPH), Bizu Gelaye, PhD, MPH (Director of the Multidisciplinary International Research Training, HSPH), Alemayehu Worku, and Yifru Berhan.
In parallel with the curriculum, Fellows undertook a “learning by doing” approach, being paired with policy makers from the Ministry of Health (MOH), EPHI, and regional health bureaus to undertake high priority research studies. The Fellows gained direct experience in each of the steps that world-class researchers undertake, drafting proposals, submitting IRB protocols, developing analysis plans, analyzing data and drafting manuscripts. The fellows coded their own data analyses, learned STATA and R, and collaborated with senior analysts.
On October 26, 2023, the HaSET Fellows shared the results of their research, which produced 15 manuscripts and 11 policy briefs. The event took place in Addis Ababa at the EPHI conference center with keynote speeches, presentations, certification ceremony, and poster session. The event was well-attended by over 50 participants from across the collaborating institutions and leading maternal and child health researchers in Ethiopia:
- Her Excellency Minister of Health Dr. Lia Tadesse keynote: “Quality evidence is critical for effective decision-making at the Ministry of Health. HaSET has catalyzed collaboration across institutions to drive evidence-based policy and developed capacity for maternal and child health research. Congratulations to the Fellows for their successful completion of the program and to the HaSET and partners on their implementation of this program, which is the first of its kind in Ethiopia. The research of the Fellows will be used to inform decision making for program implementation and we recommend expansion and scale of such innovative programs in the country.”
- Dr. Mesay Hailu, Director General of EPHI: “Quality evidence rooted in local communities is essential to the ongoing improvement of public health. The HaSET collaboration marks a major expansion in capacity for enhancing maternal and child health in Ethiopia.”
- Dr. Meseret Zelalem, Maternal Child Adolescent Health-Lead executive at the Ministry of Health: “Maternal, child, and adolescent health has been a priority and will continue to be a priority for MoH. We look forward to using evidence from HaSET for program planning to impact morbidity and mortality. Thank you for the strong leadership provided by MoH, EPHI, SPHMMC, Dr. Lisanu Taddesse and Prof. Kassahun Alemu from the HaSET team, and Prof. Grace Chan, without whom none of this would have been possible. Thank you to the SAG members, Chairperson Prof. Yifru Berhan, and funding support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”
- Dr. Lisanu Taddesse, HaSET Program Director: “The Mission of HaSET is to catalyze an innovative, creative, and impact-focused research environment with institutions and academic universities to advance the health of mothers, newborns, and children.”
- Dr. Theodros Getachew, Director, Health System and Reproductive Health Research directorate EPHI: “HaSET introduced the concept of research fellowships for the first time to the country and to EPHI. Embedding capacity building is key to the scale-up of all programs and we are now adapting this model across our programs at EPHI.”
- Dr. Wuletaw Chanie, SPHMMC Vice Provost: “The data platform of HaSET generates key evidence in MNCH and builds the analytic capacity of the fellows and institutions. These efforts bring change in reducing morbidity and mortality among women and children.”
- Prof. Delayehu Bekele, SPHMMC Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Maternal Fetal Medicine: “The Birhan field site combined with this innovative fellowship program maximized the use of data and capacity building. We have demonstrated success in producing high quality research output involving young researchers, which are used for policy making at the Ministry.
- Prof. Grace Chan, Principal Investigator of HaSET and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and Boston Children’s Hospital: “Global health is rooted in local reality. HaSET seeks to bring local voices and evidence to guide policy-making by building world-class research capacity in maternal and child health in Ethiopia. I am inspired by the work of our Fellows and collaborators on blazing new trails in establishing the first program of its kind in Ethiopia. The work of HaSET promises to touch countless lives for years to come.”
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Certificate ceremony Certificates were awarded to the 5 post-doctoral and 4 implementation research fellows from HE Dr. Lia Taddesse, Dr. Mesay, Dr. Wuletaw, and Professor Chan.
Panel discussion with Dr. Meseret Zelalem, Dr. Theodros Getachew, Prof. Grace Chan, Prof. Delayehu Bekele, moderated by Prof. Kassahun Alemu on maternal and child health priorities, the role of research and evidence to policy translation.
Poster presentation 15 posters were presented by fellows during a coffee ceremony
Policy briefs Printouts of eleven policy briefs were shared with the invited participants and higher officials
Grace Chan, MD, MPH, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology
Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Attending Physician, Medical Critical Care, Boston Children’s Hospital
Honorary Faculty, St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, Addis Ababa Ethiopia
Our mission is to advance the health of mothers, newborns and children by generating high quality evidence, training researchers, and translating results to programs and policies.
Saint Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College
St Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College is a renowned medical institution with the one of the largest public hospitals in the country and growing medical college with over 3,000 faculty and staff directly governed by the Ministry of Health dedicated to training the next generation of health professionals in Ethiopia. St. Paul’s Hospital serves a catchment of 10 million with 700 inpatient beds, 1,200 emergency and outpatient visits daily, 10,000 deliveries per year and an additional 16 catchment health centers.
Ethiopian Public Health Institute
The Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) is the nation’s leading data-driven public health institute. EPHI improves health through research, information utilization and technology, effective public health emergency management, laboratory systems, and training public health researchers and practitioners. It is the technical arm of the Ministry of Health.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
The Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health produces knowledge through research, trains global leaders, and translates knowledge into evidence for public health decision making.
Harvard Medical School
The Harvard Medical School nurtures a diverse, inclusive community dedicated to alleviating suffering and improving health and well-being for all through excellence in teaching and learning, discovery and scholarship, and service and leadership. With its vast reservoir of talent, extensive network of affiliates and commitment to problem solving, Harvard Medical School faculty members have improved human health by innovating in their roles as physicians, mentors and scholars. HMS is uniquely positioned to steer education and research in directions that will benefit local, national and global communities.
Boston Children’s Hospital
Boston Children’s Hospital, the primary pediatric teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School, is dedicated to improving and advancing the health and well-being of children around the world through its life-changing work in clinical care, biomedical research, medical education and community engagement.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The BMGF strives to create a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life. Working together with governments and nonprofits, BMGF contributes over $7B a year to fight the greatest inequities in the world so that every child, no matter where they are born or grow up, reaches their full potential.