Sub-Saharan African (SSA) bears the highest burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Funding initiatives for health-sciences research in the region have generated high quality data from demographic and health surveillance sites (DHSS) and nationally representative demographic and health surveys. Other funding tools help the region to collect routine health data using the district health information systems. However, the capacity to analyse and formulate locally relevant scientific questions is limited. Individuals capable of robust, innovative and elaborate analyses are often overwhelmed and there is limited capacity to manage and use existing data to inform policy makers and local health service implementers.
Ground breaking research in HIV and AIDS, TB, malaria, other infectious diseases and research on health systems has largely relied on statistical and data expertise from developed countries. With emerging non-communicable diseases, there will be a need for even more biostatistical expertise. To facilitate high quality research, a training programme is needed to increase the number of both methodological and applied biostatisticians. This will build the capacity to handle advanced statistical analysis, enhance grantsmanship, and reduce dependence on
external experts. The Wellcome Trust African Institutions Initiative (AII) through several consortia (CARTA, THRiVE, SACORE, etc) has made significant progress to build research capacity. However, enhancement by the creation of a clear research capacity in biostatistics that fully complements such initiatives is needed. Previous efforts to develop statistics have been disjointed, with statisticians leaving to private industry, as there are few academic centres for biostatistics that are tightly linked to local biomedical research. Previous regional meetings recognised the need to pool resources to build biostatistics capacity, which resulted in the formation of the Sub-Saharan African Consortium for Advanced Biostatistical training (SSACAB).
SSCAB is funded by the Wellcome Trust, through the DELTAS Africa programme.