Health System Strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa


The ASSET NIHR Global Health Research Unit will be highly interdisciplinary, involving 28 researchers from across King’s College London, and with considerable academic strength contributed by our partner institutions; Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia); University of Cape Town, University of Cape Town Lung Institute, and University of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa); University of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe); and King’s Sierra Leone Partnership and College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (Sierra Leone). Mindwave Ventures will be developing apps for healthcare management

As a global top 20 University, with strengths in biomedical education and research, KCL has recognised the need to cohere its global health activities, crafting a solid base with a plan for future investment, growth and development. The new King’s Global Health Institute (KGHI) is a focal point for King’s Global Health researchers, a signifier of our institutional commitment, and a catalyst for a step change in the extent and impact of our research and educational programs. KGHI’s core vision is to establish a world-leading, cutting-edge research agenda, through major interdisciplinary research programs orientated to the scaling up of health services that are ‘fit for purpose’ in meeting the challenges of continuing care in resource-poor settings. King’s Global Health Institute has over 100 academics active in Global Health research, training and education. 28 academics are working on ASSET, bringing expertise in mental health, surgery, maternal health, non-communicable disease, palliative care, dentistry, social science, health economics, policy, systems research and implementation science. King’s faculties participating in the program include Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine; Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience; Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery; Dental Institute and the Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy.


Addis Ababa University was founded in 1950, and now has over 48,000 students. ASSET draws on academic strengths from the Departments of Psychiatry, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Dentistry (School of Medicine), and from the School of Public Health within the College of Health Sciences.  The work of ASSET will be managed through the new CDT-Africa World Bank Centre of Excellence at AAU College of Health Sciences, a clinical trials and drug development unit, specialising in complex health service and system interventions. AAU has strong research links in the Gurage Zone, SNNPR - to the Butajira Demographic Surveillance Site, including the Meskan and Mareko districts (psychiatric epidemiology, maternal and child health, clinical trials) and Sodo district (mental health care implementation science) with excellent local research infrastructure.


The University of Cape Town, a research-intensive university with over 29.000 students was established in 1918, and is hence one of Africa’s oldest universities. ASSET’s work will be drawing on academic strengths from the Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health (CPMH), and the School of Public Health and Family Medicine (Palliative Care). CPMH is multi-disciplinary centre that conducts high quality research on public mental health and uses evidence for teaching, consultancy and advocacy to promote mental health in Africa.  Both research groups have worked extensively on implementation research through primary care in disadvantaged communities in the Western Cape. This includes a history of successful partnerships between UCT and KCL in the area of mental health; including the DFID funded PRogramme for Improving Mental health carE (PRIME, 2011-2019), and the NIMH funded Africa Focus on Intervention Research for Mental health research hub (AFFIRM, 2011-2016).



University of Cape Town Lung Institute provides clinical services and conducts research in the fields of respiratory medicine, tuberculosis, allergy, occupational medicine and dermatology. UCTLI’s Knowledge Translation Unit (KTU) has developed, rigorously tested and implemented at scale PACK (Practical Approach to Care Kit) programmes to standardise and integrate healthcare delivered at primary level. At the core of these programmes are the PACK clinical practice guidelines that are evidenced-based, aligned with policy and regularly updated, and scaled up through educational outreach founded upon practice-based learning. Continuing development and ‘localisation’ of PACK to other country’s health systems is conducted through a partnership between KTU and the BMJ. ASSET is supporting KTU/ BMJ’s work with the Ethiopia Federal Ministry of Health to develop and scale up the Ethiopia version of PACK, the Primary Health Care Clinical Guidelines (PHCCG). UCTLI will also be leading ASSET’s work on the management of TB comorbid with depression in collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal.  


The University of KwaZulu-Natal is a multi-campus, residential, teaching and research-led university located in the picturesque province of KwaZulu-Natal. The University’s scientists play an integral role in the global fight against HIV /AIDS and Tuberculosis.  ASSET’s work draws on academic strengths in the Centre for Rural Health and the Department of Psychology at the College of Health Sciences. Prof Inge Petersen, the Director of the Centre for Rural Health has worked for the past 20 years on how best to integrate mental health into primary health care as a means to close the treatment gap for mental disorders in South Africa. She is currently running two cluster pragmatic randomised control trials on integrating mental health into the integrated chronic disease platform in South Africa. The work of ASSET will be based in primary healthcare centres linked to the MhINT (mental health integration) programme funded by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga provinces.


The College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) was the first medical school in Sierra Leone (1998), later incorporated into the University of Sierra Leone (2005), with the National School of Nursing and Pharmacy Technician School. COMAHS trains doctors, nurses, pharmacists, biomedical scientists and laboratory technicians with a mission to improve the health care delivery system in Sierra Leone. TB Kamara, a COMAHS surgeon has partnered with several N American and European research groups, as well as Leather, to generate a detailed descriptive evidence base on the Sierra Leone surgical care system.


King’s Sierra Leone Partnership is one of three global health partnerships at King’s Health Partners at King’s College London. The in-country team of staff and volunteers work alongside local partners to build a strong and resilient health system and improve health outcomes in Sierra Leone by strengthening the capacity of individuals, institutions, and systems. KSLP is a long-term health partnership between King’s and COMAHS, Connaught Hospital and the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation. An in-country team of 25-30 staff and volunteers work across policy, service delivery (surgery, emergency medicine, obstetrics, mental health, public health, ITD), research, and training.


The University of Zimbabwe was the first in the country, founded in 1955. It has 124 Professors and 18,000 students, 2,600 of whom are postgraduates. ASSET will be drawing from the academic strength of the College of Health Sciences, particularly the Departments of Community Medicine and Psychiatry. The University of Zimbabwe, in collaboration with King;;s College London, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and City Health Harare has pioneered and led the trialling and scale up of the successful ‘Friendship Bench’ brief psychological intervention delivered by lay health workers in primary care, and also leads the Wellcome Trust funded AMARI DELTAs African Mental Health Research Initiative, working to build research capacity in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi, and South Africa.


Mindwave ventures is a London-based company that develops digital products and services for health and care. They are a small multidisciplinary team of designers, developers and researchers committed to creating attractive, intuitive and inclusive designs. Their work is both needs-based and user-led. Recent work includes; HEALTHLOCKER, a digital Personal Health Record, bringing together service users, carers, clinicians and researchers to improve communication and transparency in care; MEDICHEC, a simple app to assist clinicians in safe and appropriate prescribing for patients with dementia; CROWDSUM, a digital tool that quantifies and visualises a patient’s health on the ward by drawing on the expertise and observations of multiple members of a clinical team. CROWDSUM crowdsources and aggregate opinions within a multidisciplinary clinical team, in order to present an objective view of a patient’s health over time, to support objective decision-making within clinical teams. Mindwave is a spin out from the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre.