Makerere University (Mak) together with the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research Dhaka, Bangladesh (icddr,b); the University of Melbourne and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), Melbourne, Australia, with support from Every Breath Counts (EBC) Coalition, New York, USA are co-hosting the Lancet Global Health Commission on Medical Security. Once completed, this will be the fifth Commission Report by the Lancet Global Health.
Dr. Freddie Ssengooba, Associate Professor of Health Policy Planning and Management, at the School of Public Health is one of the 20 multidisciplinary team of commissioners that will lead this work and produce a Commission Report by September 2024. Dr. Freddy Eric Kitutu, a Senior Lecturer of Health Systems Pharmacy will co-chair the Commission. The other co-chairs and members of the executive committee are Dr Ahmed Ehanur Rahman and Prof Shams El Arifeen of icddr,b, Dr Hamish Graham of MCRI , Dr Carina King (Associate Professor at Karolinska Institute) and Ms Leith Greenslade EBC Coalition and Ms Zoë Mullan, Chief Editor of the Lancet Global Health.
The announcement was made in an article; The Lancet Global Health Commission on medical oxygen security published online on Friday, September 23, 2022 in the Lancet Global Health journal. The Lancet is an independent, international weekly, leading general medical journal, a platform for global research impact advancement.
Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze, Professor and Dean, School of Public Health described this development as an "important milestone" while congratulating the team for the inclusion of the commission.
Medical oxygen is an essential health treatment for both acute and chronic conditions across all age groups. According to the Lancet article, adequate access to safe, affordable, and appropriate medical oxygen services is crucial for improving population health and meeting the Sustainable Development Goal targets. However, severely limited or unreliable oxygen services have been a persistent issue in many low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly among small health facilities serving poor, rural, and otherwise marginalized populations.
Four key research themes and pillars (Ref: Announcement of LGH Commission on Medical Oxygen Security)
The worst of oxygen-related disruptions and excess mortality were experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic with huge impact on LMICs.
“Millions of health-care workers and families have experienced the desperation of trying to find oxygen for severely unwell patients and family members. We might never know how many COVID-19 deaths resulted from a lack of access to oxygen during the pandemic, but the limited data available suggest that it is substantial,” reads in part, the announcement of the commission statement.
A 2021 study of COVID-19 deaths in 64 intensive care units across ten African countries showed that one in two patients died without receiving medical oxygen.
“Although COVID-19 exposed and exacerbated a massive underlying gap in access to medical oxygen across LMICs, it also resulted in unprecedented attention to, and investment in, oxygen systems that can benefit many patients. Severe COVID-19 is just one indication for medical oxygen therapy,” further stresses the publication.
The commission will be supported by an Advisory Group and a global network of Oxygen Access Collaborators, with strong low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) representation and including non-academic experts.
The commission’s main objective is to address major gaps in oxygen research, mobilise a broad coalition to promote best practices in addressing the gaps in medical oxygen delivery systems, facilitating and conducting the relevant research to inform implementation, and accelerate impact towards strong oxygen systems and reduced mortality and morbidity globally.
Dr. Ssengooba, an Associate Professor of Health Economics and Health Systems Management at Makerere University School of Public Health with over 20 years of teaching and research in health policy and systems. Dr Ssengooba is well embedded in the national and regional health and development discourses, think-tank taskforces and as advisory boards for health agencies like National Planning Authority, WHO-Afro, Wellcome Trust, KEMRI and Health Systems Global. He also leads a partnership of agencies to respond to policy problems and demand for advice from the government of Uganda.
Dr Freddy Eric Kitutu has previously served as the Dean of Makerere University School of Health Sciences and member the Special Advisory National COVID19 Committee on Epidemiology of Uganda. His research interests include complex interventions to improve adequate access to medicines, medical oxygen and vaccines, and implementation research at the interface of formal health structure, health markets and community health systems. He is part of a global and multidisciplinary research team investigating how to create and co-formulate Sustainable Pharmaceutical Systems in low- and middle-income countries.
During this work, the Commission secretariat will collaborate with other researchers and experts, particularly in Anesthesia and Critical Care, Biomedical Engineering, Lung Institute at Makerere University College of Health Sciences.
The Commission's report will be published on World Lung Day 2024, together with policy briefs translated into multiple languages summarising the major recommendations for national, regional, and global health decision makers.
Social media accounts:
Linkedin: Freddy Kitutu <www.linkedin.com/in/FreddyKitutu>
By Davidson Ndyabahika
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