Opportunities and challenges to non-communicable disease (NCD) research and training in Pakistan: A qualitative study from Pakistan

Aysha Almas, Safia Awan, Gerald Bloomfield, Muhammad Imran Nisar, Sameen Siddiqi, Asma Ahmed, Asad Ali, Saad Hameed Shafqat, Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta, Daniel Benjamin Mark, Pamela Douglas, John Bartlett, Tazeen H. Jafar, Zainab Samad

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Introduction Most of the global non-communicable disease (NCD)-related death burden is borne by low and middle-income countries (LMICs). In LMICs like Pakistan, however, a major gap in responding to NCDs is a lack of high-quality research leading to policy development and implementation of NCDs. To assess institutional opportunities and constraints to NCD research and training we conducted a situational analysis for NCD research and training at Aga Khan University Pakistan. Methods We conducted a descriptive exploratory study using grounded theory as a qualitative approach: semistructured interviews of 16 NCD stakeholders (three excluded) and two focus group discussions with postgraduate and undergraduate trainees were conducted. A simple thematic analysis was done where themes were identified, and then recurring ideas were critically placed in their specific themes and refined based on the consensus of the investigators. Results The major themes derived were priority research areas in NCDs; methods to improve NCD research integration; barriers to NCD research in LMICs like Pakistan; design of NCD research programme and career paths; and NCD prevention at mass level, policy and link to the government. In general, participants opined that while there was an appetite for NCD research and training, but few high-quality research training programmes in NCDs existed, such programmes needed to be established. The ideal NCD research and training programmes would have in-built protected time, career guidance and dedicated mentorship. Most participants identified cardiovascular diseases as a priority thematic area and health information technology and data science as key methodological approaches to be introduced into research training. Conclusion We conclude from this qualitative study on NCD research and training that high-quality research training programmes for NCDs are rare. Such programmes need to be established with in-built protected time, career guidance and mentorship for the trainees to improve their research capacity in Pakistan.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere066460
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2022




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