Thirty years ago, faculty from UNC received a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to assist the country of Malawi in developing treatment protocols for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In 1997, in partnership with the Malawi Ministry of Health and the Malawi College of Medicine, the University established UNC Project-Malawi in the capital city of Lilongwe. The mission of UNC Project-Malawi is to identify innovative, culturally appropriate, and relatively inexpensive methods to improve the health of the people of Malawi, through research, health systems strengthening, prevention, training, and care.
Over the years, project leaders in collaboration with the Malawi Ministry of Health have designed programs to control the spread of HIV and other STIs, as well as to develop and test country-specific prevention and treatment guidelines. From the original focus, UNC Project-Malawi has expanded its research portfolio to include other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, epidemiology, nutrition, water, cancer, family planning, maternal and child health, surgery, and injury prevention. Additionally, UNC Project-Malawi helps doctors and other health practitioners gain experience in clinical care in adult medicine, antenatal care, HIV counseling/testing, HIV/AIDS treatment, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, pathology, pharmacology, radiology and management of sexually transmitted infections.
The project also provides training in lab science, medical geography, nursing, nutrition, adult medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive health, pathology, and surgery to help health professionals prepare for careers worldwide. The Eshelman School of Pharmacy provides opportunities for students to complete rotations in Malawi, and UNC’s African Studies Center is developing collaborations with the University of Malawi and has provided language support for colleagues working in-country.
In 2012, the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases recruited key faculty from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to continue work they were conducting in Zambia. Working closely with the Zambian government, this team had been instrumental in the rapid scale-up public health interventions for HIV care, treatment, and prevention across four provinces countrywide. In addition, the team had developed a robust research portfolio that focused not only on HIV, but also on women’s cancers, obstetric outcomes, and maternal-child health. UNC’s Zambia team has developed strong collaborations with the University of Zambia School of Medicine in an effort to further build research and public health infrastructure within the country’s premier academic institutions. Their broad approach to collaboration has expanded to faculty from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and UNC School of Pharmacy. Today, UNC’s operations in Malawi and Zambia are closely intertwined.