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Neglected tropical diseases get prime time in systematic reviews primer in Accra, Ghana

Wednesday, 15 Jun 2016

The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the University of Ghana was the location for a ‘Primer in Systematic Reviews’ held from 9 to 12 May 2016. The course facilitators were Prof. Paul Garner and Dr Rachel Isba from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and Prof. Charles Wiysonge from Stellenbosch University and Cochrane South Africa. The aim of the course was to help participants understand, appraise and use systematic reviews specifically in the field of neglected tropical diseases.

It is now well established that well-conducted and up-to-date systematic reviews provide the best evidence to answer healthcare questions. Cochrane led the way in systematic reviews in tropical medicine, and there is now overwhelming empirical evidence that Cochrane reviews are generally higher quality than some other systematic reviews. In the recent past systematic reviews in tropical diseases such as albendazole for filariasis and community deworming programmes have generated a lot of debate. There is a need for researchers to know how to identify, read, appraise and interpret systematic reviews; thus the need for this course. By the end of the course, participants were expected to be able to: (1) outline the rationale for, and the components of, systematic reviews; (2) conduct effective searches for systematic reviews; (3) critically appraise systematic reviews, including statistical interpretation of meta-analysis; (4) interpret a GRADE profile and how it can be used in guideline development; and, (5) consider health systems research questions in neglected tropical diseases, and how systematic reviews fit in.

The course brought together 24 healthcare professionals, researchers in applied tropical diseases, technical advisors to policymakers in neglected tropical diseases, and healthcare managers involved in neglected tropical disease programme design and delivery. This was a hands-on course, consisting of interactive seminars and group work sessions. A time for reflection was included at the start and end of each day; to assist participants in clarifying objectives, to find out whether set objectives were met, and to give participants time for feedback and questions.

The course was well-received by participants. “I am very grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to implement knowledge into action,” said one.

“The workshop was well facilitated and well organised,” added another.

 A large amount of preparation was required on in advance of the course and on a daily basis. It will be important to maintain this approach when future Primer courses are delivered in Ghana or other African countries.


Charles Shey Wiysonge

Cochrane SA

This article was first published in the Cochrane South Africa newsletter, Volume 18 (No. 1) July/August 2016