Supporting a global response

COVID-19 emergency response activities, Madartek, Basabo, Dhaka

NIHR-funded global health research teams are working together across borders, to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.

Responding and adapting to the pandemic

Over the past year, NIHR-funded research teams and partnerships have moved swiftly to adapt their projects to contribute to COVID-19 response, focusing both on local and national needs, and on global priorities identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).

For example, in March 2020, the NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Global Surgery launched a global platform to undertake research, and share knowledge on the impacts of COVID-19 on surgery. This involved 100,000 patients, in more than 1,000 hospitals, in 100 countries. Their findings have been published in leading journals, taken up by national surgical societies, and incorporated in WHO guidance.

The NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Health System Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa (ASSET), collates daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and deaths for all 46 sub-Saharan African countries, to enable research on the impacts of responses including:

  • testing
  • quarantines
  • other infection control measures

The NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Respiratory Health (RESPIRE) team,  is conducting research to protect and support frontline health care workers in Malaysia, as well as in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Funding new rapid research to tackle COVID-19

Coronavirus does not respect borders, and the impact of the pandemic is being felt across the globe. Our varied multidisciplinary new research projects will directly benefit people in low and middle income countries, provide learning opportunities globally, and complement NIHR and UKRI’s cross-government approach to funding COVID-19 research in the UK.
Dr Lesong Conteh, Chair of Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) funding committee

We work with other major UK and global research funders to develop joint programmes. and funding partnerships. For example, with UKRI we launched the Global Effort on COVID-19 (GECO) rapid response programme, to focus on four WHO priority areas:

  • epidemiology
  • clinical management
  • infection prevention and control
  •  health system responses

Twenty projects have already been announced, in two different rounds. 

The first round, announced in October 2020, awarded funding to twelve projects covering 18 countries across Africa, South America and South East Asia. The research that has already started includes:

  • studies on developing optimal critical care pathways for COVID-19 patients across seven African countries
  • understanding the mental health needs of older people in Peru, and how they are being impacted by COVID-19 restrictions
  • preventing the spread of COVID-19 across different communities in Malawi, by better understanding the impact of living conditions on infection rates

The second round of research projects, announced in February 2021, includes a contact-tracing tool being tested in East Africa, and a genomic surveillance system with real-time sequencing in the Philippines.

Our COVID-19 global health research

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