Consortium holds maiden Advisory Board meeting

The consortium held its maiden Advisory Board meeting on 5 November 2021 at the Ange Hill Hotel in Accra. Participants at the meeting included all the Expert Advisory Board members: Ms. Cecilia Oh (UNDP), Professor John Gyapong (University of Health and Allied Sciences), Professor Juerg Utzinger (Swiss TPH), Mrs. Delese Mimi Darko (FDA Ghana), Dr. Anthony Ofosu (Ghana Health Service) and Professor Margaret Gyapong (Principal Investigator). Also in attendance were the Work Package leaders, the chair of the Communications Subcommittee, chair of the Data Management Subcommittee, and the Project Administrative Team.

Appointment of Chairperson

The Board unanimously nominated Ms. Cecilia Oh (UNDP) as Chairperson of the Expert Advisory Board. In her acceptance speech, she conveyed her appreciation to the Consortium for the confidence reposed in her. She expressed optimism in the ability of the Consortium to achieve its goals and make huge impact, and promised to contribute her quota to achieving those goals.

Reports from Work Packages

Leaders of the various work packages and subcommittees presented reports on their activities and the plan for the ensuing year.

Professor Margaret Gyapong’s Work Package One report included an overview of the SAVING Consortium. She explained how it is using the introduction of the new malaria vaccine as an entry point to build technical and implementation research capacity in partner institutions along the value chain to facilitate the delivery and uptake of new medical interventions in Ghana. She emphasized that the consortium, through a theory of change, would strengthen country ownership, leadership and capacity for decision making, which will ultimately result in enhanced access and delivery of new health technologies in Ghana. She outlined the activities, deliverables, milestone targets for the year and the extent to which they have been achieved.

Professor Seth Owusu-Agyei, Chair of the Data Management Subcommittee, briefly presented the activities of the subcommittee and stated that two major subcommittee meetings were held and the committee has successfully developed a draft data management plan for the consortium.

On communication, Mrs. Maria B. Gwira, Chair of the Communication Subcommittee, made a presentation outlining the website development process and the current status of the website. She led members to navigate the site, explaining each menu item and its function, and receiving feedback from members.

Professor Evelyn Ansah, Work Package Two Lead, reported that the overall objective of WP2 is to build the necessary institutional and individual capacity in Implementation Research to address implementation bottlenecks that impede the nationwide scale-up and use of new medical interventions. She stated that WP2 had conducted stakeholder analysis workshops for WP4 to enable them adequately engage with their stakeholders, and also organised specialised MOOC on Implementation Research for 83 participants. WP2 has also developed a procedure for selecting postgraduate trainees on the project.

Reporting on activities of Work Package Three, the lead, Dr. Martha Gyansa-Lutterodt, explained that WP3 intends to build institutional capacity and enhance evidence-based decision-making through Health Technology Assessment (HTA), which will establish a system for adding new vaccines to Ghana’s Standard Treatment Guidelines (STG); strengthen human resource capacity in the procurement and supply chain mechanisms for vaccines and new medical interventions; identify challenges, and improve on mechanisms for the dissemination of information on new medical technologies to patients. On progress so far, she said that a concept note has been developed for vaccine-specific training on HTA, focusing on using both malaria and COVID-19 vaccines as comparative cases and in skills gap assessment. She also reported that WP3 had completed its stakeholder identification and analysis to inform capacity building on the supply chain.

Mr. Seth Seaneke, in his report for Work Package Four, indicated that since the June 2019 introduction in Ghana of the Mobile App to report adverse events, the FDA has received a total of 556 reports, with 43.2% and 56.5% of these reports being from healthcare professionals and patients respectively. WP4 intends to identify implementation challenges in deploying the app for adverse event reporting by patients and healthcare professionals at the health system and community level; design and implement, with key stakeholders, the best strategies to ensure the app is more robust, efficient and user-friendly; and assess the impact of the new strategies on patient reporting of adverse events. On activities undertaken so far, Mr. Seneake stated that a total of 79 key stakeholders have been identified and stratified, based on their levels of interest and influence, in the use of the MedSafety App. He added that a concept note has also been developed to guide stakeholder consultations.

For Work Package Five, Dr. Xavier Bosch-Capblanch reported that WP5 is responsible for the facilitation of evidence uptake by decision-makers, particularly in Ghana. This, he explained, would be achieved by making relevant evidence easily available to decision-makers, and bringing decision-makers to the SAVING project as partners and stakeholders. On progress so far, he indicated that WP5 has developed a stakeholders’ master list and analyses protocol, and also set up a knowledge management system to manage knowledge generated by the Consortium.

The Expert Edvisory Board members expressed satisfaction at the level of progress made by the Consortium with respect to its overall goals, and made very important inputs into each work package’s implementation strategies to guide further implementation activities.