USC and IIGH Amref Health Africa – An Inside Look at Our Evolving Partnership

The USC Institute on Inequalities on Global Health (IIGH) has put into place a long-term partnership with Amref Health Africa to use our respective strengths to jointly design and implement projects across a variety of health topics and countries in Africa. The collaborating Los Angeles and Nairobi, Kenya based teams are launching a handful of new initiatives to both highlight and publicly engage on the substance and progress of work developed so far. 

Founded as the Flying Doctor Service of East Africa in 1957, Amref Health Africa is now the continent’s largest indigenous non-profit health organization. Born and based in Africa, it has a strong regional presence with programs that reach millions of people across 35 sub-Saharan African countries. It is well-respected for its community-based health projects, for its work developing capacity in human resources for health and, more recently, for championing Universal Health Coverage.

Planned public activities for the upcoming months include a joint Op-Ed highlighting the focus and ambition of the partnership authored by Anthony Bailey, USC Vice President for Strategic and Global Initiatives and Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref, in addition to a planned webinar with program leaders in both the U.S. and Kenya to discuss progress in implementing planned programs on the ground while taking questions from students, faculty and interested stakeholders.

Amref Health Africa and IIGH share a common vision to improve the lives of people who are marginalized and contributing to better health by informing policy, programs and services. IIGH’s expertise in policy analysis and research is a perfect combination with Amref’s skills in health systems strengthening, community health and policy advocacy. Both organizations are committed to equitable partnerships, to the meaningful involvement of affected communities, and to effecting positive change that is evidence-informed and sustainable.

This initiative is spearheaded by USC IIGH Research Director, and Director of the Program on Global Health and Human Rights, Laura Ferguson, who began her public health career at Amref twenty years ago. It builds on her history of research and collaboration in sub-Saharan Africa, which provides a solid foundation for USC IIGH to expand on across its core areas of research, education and policy engagement.

Collaborative research has already begun on COVID-19 in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia with funding from the INCLUDE platform, Amref Health Africa and the USC Zumberge Special Soliciation – Epidemic & Virus Related Research and Development Award. One stream of research focuses on the impact of government responses to COVID-19 on the health and lives of disadvantaged populations. The other stream seeks to understand how best community health workers and self-care interventions can help alleviate the burden that COVID-19 has placed on local health systems so as to ensure that people can continue to access the health services they need. The plan, over the coming years, is to continue to grow collaborative research, engage students in training opportunities, and build a solid USC IIGH Africa Hub based in Kenya.

Dr. Ferguson summed up her enthusiasm for the initiative and the impact it can have: “This partnership is hugely exciting, not just because of my long-standing relationship with Amref but because our complementary skillsets provide a unique path towards improving health outcomes, reducing inequalities and maximizing impact in the region and beyond. This is a perfect opportunity for doing research with immediate real-world impact.”