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NGN Members Fight Global Burden of Non-Communicable Diseases

September 13, 2019
by Jeremy I Schwartz

A group of Yale School of Medicine and School of Public Health faculty have joined together to form a transdisciplinary, collaborative network that addresses the global burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The Yale Network for Global NCDs (known as NGN, “engine”)—founded in 2015 by Nicola Hawley, PhD, department of chronic disease epidemiology; Evelyn Hsieh Donroe, MD, PhD, section of rheumatology, allergy & immunology; Kasia Lipska, MD, MHS, BS, section of endocrinology & metabolism; Christine Ngaruiya, MD, MSc, DTMH, department of emergency medicine; Tracy Rabin, MD, MS, section of general internal medicine; and Jeremy Schwartz, MD, section of general internal medicine—brings together faculty involved in NCD research, advocacy, policy, implementation science, education, and ethics.

“We believe that we can have a greater impact working together, rather than in our isolated silos,” said Schwartz.

“Our goal is to foster dialogue and collaborations among faculty across campus regarding the global NCD crisis, thereby creating opportunities for students, and increasing partnerships with communities and institutions outside of Yale focused on NCDs,” added Hsieh.

“Furthermore, many of the issues that we struggle with globally are also issues highly relevant to our community right here at home,” said Lipska. “One example from diabetes care is access to affordable insulin, an issue that Yale NGN has taken up as one of its causes.” 

Since its inception, NGN members have co-authored multiple publications and embarked upon a number of successful collaborations that have engaged other faculty and trainees from the Yale community. NGN hosted a cross-campus symposium on global NCDs in 2016 and has sponsored multiple on-campus seminars and talks. The group successfully competed for the first round of Yale Institute for Global Health-Hecht Global Health Faculty Network Awards and are in the midst of a multi-dimensional, mixed methods study of self-care for hypertension and diabetes in rural Nakaseke District, Kampala. This project represents a collaboration with faculty at Makerere University College of Health Sciences and the African Community Center for Social Sustainability (ACCESS) that builds upon the ongoing Ugandan partnerships of NGN members Schwartz and Rabin through the Uganda Initiative for Integrated Management of Non-Communicable Diseases (UINCD).

As part of their faculty network award, NGN members recently traveled together to Uganda to visit with their collaborators, Drs. Isaac Ssinabulya and Robert Kalyesubula, and current NGN fellows Sarah Moor (Downs International Health Student Travel Fellow ’19 and YSM ‘22) and Andrew Tusubira, MPH, who are leading the field work for their study. The group spent its first day together in Nakaseke, hosted by ACCESS, and made site visits to the three health facilities where their research study is taking place. They then spent two days at the UINCD office in Kampala, again along with their Ugandan counterparts, delving into the primary data that the NGN fellows had spent the previous months collecting.  

Reflecting upon this experience, Ngaruiya said, “It was so important for those members of NGN who have not worked before in Uganda, or even just a rural district such as Nakaseke, to see these places firsthand, meet health facility staff and leadership, and have the opportunity to ask questions and learn from them. It really enriched our understanding and interpretation of the data and the importance of the work going forward.”

NGN plans to host Drs. Ssinabulya and Kalyesubula at Yale in early 2020 as the group begins to collaboratively write their next grant application.

Other current projects led by Yale NGN faculty also engage communities in China, Kenya, the Pacific Islands, Peru, and New Haven.

Learn more about NGN on its new website.

Submitted by Julie Parry on September 13, 2019