Twenty-five years ago, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and collaborators helped the Ghanaian Ministry of Health found the Navrongo Health Research Centre (NHRC) in northern Ghana. The Centre currently employs over 200 staff, and is still conducting ground-breaking public health research.
On the 23 of April a series of celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the start of the Ghana Vitamin A Supplementation Trials (Ghana VAST) that were the forerunner of the NHRC kicked off with a discussion on Ghana TV. This was followed by a scientific symposium held in the British Council in Accra that was attended by over 300 participants. The symposium was chaired by Dr Moses Adibo, who was the Director of Medical Services of Ghana and chair of the Advisory Committee of the Ghana VAST Project. The Honourable Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Health in Ghana, was the guest of honour. The symposium’s speakers included Professor David Ross of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who was Director of the Ghana VAST project in Navrongo from 1988 to 1992. Professor Ross spoke on the VAST foundations of the NHRC, describing how the original vitamin A trials contributed to the infrastructure and human capacity that formed the basis for the research centre. Many of the foremost public health researchers and administrators within Ghana originally worked for the Ghana VAST project. The brochure produced for the celebrations lists 13 senior Ghanaian public health researchers and administrators who originally worked for the Ghana VAST project. They include a Vice-Chancellor (Prof Fred Binka), a Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Prof John Gyapong), and the heads of two of the three Health Research Centres in Ghana (Dr Seth Owusu-Agyei and Dr Margaret Gyapong).
The Ghana VAST trials were a pair of large field trials that evaluated the impact of vitamin A supplementation on child mortality and morbidity. The two trials were very influential in the adoption of childhood vitamin A supplementation as a priority public health intervention. Currently over 500 million vitamin A capsules are given to children annually.
As well as Professor Ross, other School staff who worked on the Ghana VAST project included Peter Smith, Betty Kirkwood, Saul Morris, Nicola Dollimore and Nina Saroi. Two Ghanaian VAST staff joined the School later – Paul Arthur and Seth Owusu-Agyei. Also, three other School statisticians provided short-term support in Navrongo: Sharon Huttly, Steve Tulloch, and Jerry Wheeler.
The School continues to collaborate with the Navrongo Health Research Centre, and looks forward to continuing that productive collaboration as the Centre moves into its second quarter century.