05. Jul 2019

WDF partners with academia

Gwendolyn Carleton
A partnership with the University of Copenhagen is part of a larger effort to disseminate learnings and build the investment case for diabetes and NCDs.
Master’s student Nathalie Bille speaks with Rwanda Diabetes Association Director Crispin Gishoma during her field research in Rwanda.

What interventions supported by WDF are the most effective? How can project learnings best be documented and communicated? How can this data support the investment case for diabetes and NCDs – ultimately helping developing countries save money and lives?

As WDF’s project portfolio has expanded in geographical scope, number and size in recent years, these questions have taken on increasing urgency, says WDF Managing Director Leif Fenger Jensen.

“The global diabetes and NCD burden is growing, a there’s a need for data about what responses work. As a leading funder of diabetes projects in the developing world, we have a large supply of this information, and an obligation to analyse it and share our learnings,” he says.

Interest in non-communicable diseases has also grown among academic institutions working in the global health space, creating new opportunities for collaboration. 

“Academia is looking for new approaches and testing interventions that could provide sustainable solutions to the growing NCD epidemic,” Mr Fenger says. “By partnering with academic institutions, we hope to leverage this interest.”

Exchange, strengthen and build

The first such partnership was formalised in April 2018, with a Memo of Understanding between WDF and the School of Global Health, University of Copenhagen (SGH) agreeing to ‘exchange knowledge, partnerships and networks; strengthen local research capacity, evidence base and project outcomes; and build the investment case for effective interventions.’

It is currently supporting University of Copenhagen master’s students conducting thesis research. WDF and SGH are exploring additional support for internships with WDF and its local partner organisations, operational/implementation science, and follow-up research throughout the various stages of the project cycle.

“Students from the University of Copenhagen are given a unique chance to contribute to various aspects of project planning, implementation and evaluation. The students are eager to apply methods and theory on real life aspects of global health. The opportunities provided by WDF contribute greatly to shaping of future professionals in the field of global health,” says Prof. Flemming Konradsen, Director of SGH.

WDF Senior Advisor Kirza Buch Kristensen, who is managing the initiative, adds: “Academic institutions bring skills that complement our own – by working together, we hope to collect and disseminate data that policy makers badly need.” 

Palestine, Moldova and Rwanda

Since the MoU was signed, four SGH master students have conducted field work related to WDF projects in Palestine, Moldova, and Rwanda. Extracts of their work are available on the Foundation’s website.

In Palestine, Mathilde Christine Boye and Stine Vest Nielsen shed light on the transferability of the Diabetes Comprehensive Care Model into the Palestinian setting and offered several recommendations for future practices of the WDF and other organisations initiating diabetes interventions in settings like Palestine.

In Moldova, Sophi Løge analysed data from the WDF project Bridging Diabetes and TB Control in Moldova WDF, 14-934, in order to: estimate the proportion of diabetes and pre-diabetes in people with tuberculosis; compare three glycaemia screening methods; examine risk factors associated with screening diabetes in tuberculosis patients; and assess follow-up of diabetes screening in TB patients.

In Rwanda, Nathalie Bille investigated data about type 1 diabetes patients collected by WDF’s partners in Rwanda to explore the association between HbA1c level and the development of microvascular complications. She found that tight glucose control is correlated with a reduced risk of nephropathy, and that glucose monitoring more than once daily reduces the risk of developing kidney complications among Rwandans with type 1.

SGH is now accepting applications from new master’s students whose work will begin in the second half 2019. 

WDF is currently pursuing other partnerships with academic institutions, both internationally and in the low- and middle-income countries where WDF projects take place. 

For more information, contact Kirza Kristensen