The overall objective of this proposal is the strengthening of regional research capacity in the 14-country Southern African Development Community (SADC) to address the challenges of non-communicable chronic respiratory diseases (NCCRDs) (i.e., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic asthma in adults and children, and pneumoconioses) associated with environmental (e.g., ambient air pollution, burning of biomass fuels in domiciles, indoor and outdoor exposure to bioaerosols, environmental tobacco smoke)and occupational (e.g., silica associated with mining &construction industries, respirable dust in coal mines, allergens and endotoxin associated with agriculture and food processing) exposures. This focus reflects the situational analysis ofthe region suggesting: a) substantial morbidity and mortality from NCCRDs, b) a significant role of environmental and/or occupational exposures in the causation of a large fraction of NCCRDs, and, c) the high potential for successful public health interventions among those NCCRDs in which environmental and occupational exposures play key roles. Our strategies for achieving the goal of region-wide strengthening of research capacity in NCCRDs focus on: a) the long-term, comprehensive training of individuals who will become future leaders of research on NCCRDs in their home countries;b) the building of institutional capacity through a combination of strengthening of mentoring skills of faculty of the lead academic institutions, and development and dissemination of research training materials using state-of-the-art distance learning methodologies;and c) strengthening an alliance of academic institutions with governmental organizations responsible for evidence-based policy implementation. Specific methods to achieve these objectives include: a) fully supporting 12 doctoral students enrolled in 4 South African universities including tuition, stipend, direct support of dissertation research, and a 4-month intensive program of study in translational research at the University of Michigan;b) bringing 10 Southem African research mentors for 4 months to the University of Michigan for an intensive program to increase mentoring and research skills;c) development of distance learning modules as an open access research training resource;and, d) provision of focused short courses in southern Africa.
In southern Africa, the toll of illness and death from lung diseases like emphysema and asthma, caused by exposures to outdoor air pollution, smoky fuels for cooking, and dust and allergen exposure in mining, construction, farming and food processing, can be reduced through strengthening of regional research capacity to address the causes of these illnesses.