Health Challenges and Systems

Critical Health Systems Needs and Challenges

Health is the backbone of a nation. Sub-Saharan Africa bears a disproportionate burden of ill-health, and health remains largely under-funded by many governments in the region. In 2010, HIV/AIDS claimed up to 1.2 million lives in sub-Saharan Africa and a further 22.9 million people, including 2.3 million children, were living with HIV/AIDS. The region is also now increasingly threatened by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive respiratory disease.



Current Project


AWI-Gen/H3A – Genomic and Environmental risk factors for cardiometabolic disease in Africans

Program: Health Challenges and Systems

The AWI-Gen project aims to understand the interplay between genetic, epigenetic and environmental risk factors for obesity and related cardiometabolic diseases (CMD) in sub-Saharan Africa. The project is funded under Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) initiative. The H3Africa is a ground-breaking initiative to build institutional and individual capacity to undertake genetic and genomic studies in the sub-African region.

The project capitalizes on the unique strengths of existing longitudinal cohorts and well-established health and demographic surveillance systems (HDSS) run by the partner institutions in four countries –Kenya, South Africa, Ghana and Burkina Faso. There are six study sites across these four countries representing geographic and social variability of African populations which are also at different stages of the demographic and epidemiological transitions. The work in Kenya is being undertaken within the Nairobi Urban Health and Demographic Surveillance Site (NUHDSS) and is being implemented by APHRC.

The study has three main objectives:

  1. To build sustainable capability for genomic and genetic research on the African continent.
  2. To investigate and understand genome structure in sub-Saharan African populations in West, East and South Africa.
  3. To identify genetic variants that influence body composition and contribute to susceptibility for cardiometabolic disease.


  • University of Witwatersrand
  • INDEPTH Network


  • INDEPTH Sites Navrongo (Ghana); Nanoro (Burkina Faso); Agincourt (South Africa); Digkale (South Africa) and Soweto-based birth-to-twenty cohort (South Africa)



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