Overview of Workshop on Basic Health Research Ethics, 29-31 October 2012, Holiday Inn, Harare, Zimbabwe


PHP Africa Basic Health Research Workshop Harare Zimbabwe group photo

The Public Health Projects in Africa (PHPAfrica) organized a training workshop on Basic Health Research Ethics (HRE) from 29 to 31 October 2012 at the Holiday Inn, Harare, Zimbabwe. Workshop participants were drawn from institutions that are part of the Zimbabwean Forum of Research Institutions (ZIMFRI), namely University of Zimbabwe, Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe, City of Harare, PHPAfrica, Africa University, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Great Zimbabwe University, Albino Charity Organization of Zimbabwe and Midlands State University. PHPAfrica collaborates with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) and the workshop is part of a capacity building project funded by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).

PHP Africa: Basic Health Research Ethics workshop, Harare, Zimbabwe

The workshop started badly due to poor quality accommodation at the Executive Hotel, located across the road from the Holiday Inn, where participants had been booked to stay. Although the room which had been shown to the workshop organizers as the standard room looked satisfactory, upon checking-in workshop participants found the quality of the hotel rooms and the environment to be of unacceptable standards. Although the accommodation issue dampened the morale of the participants, the workshop kick-off and subsequent proceedings managed to rekindle the excitement and enthusiasm of the participants.

Plenary presentations focused on (i) types of health research and experimental designs, (ii) historical background of research ethics and international codes, (iii) fundamental ethical principles and (iv) risk-benefit analysis in the review process set the scene for the workshop. Thereafter, real life case studies which captured concepts, principles and issues covered in the presentations were used in breakaway group exercises so as to give the participants an opportunity to deliberate and debate as they unpacked issues in a systematic and logical way. The case studies demonstrated ethical and practical challenges that arise when clinical trials are not conducted properly. The importance of comprehension of experimental designs on the part of researchers, ethics committees and regulatory authorities was highlighted.

PHP Africa: Basic Health Research Ethics workshop, Harare, Zimbabwe session photo

The second day of the workshop focused on models of ethical review, challenges caused by poverty, informed consent and research with vulnerable groups. The gist of the presentations was the fact that research in resource-constrained settings may lead to vulnerability which requires precautions to be taken by all stakeholders involved. The stakeholders include researchers, research participants themselves, ethics committees, policy makers, regulatory authorities and others. It was pointed out that vulnerable groups should be involved in health research only if the research addresses health-related issues affecting the specific vulnerable groups and the research questions cannot be answered through research that excludes the vulnerable groups. Case studies that focused on unethical health research that enrolled vulnerable groups were used in group work.

PHP Africa: Basic Health Research Ethics workshop, Harare, Zimbabwe session photo

The third day covered issues pertaining to international collaborative research, specimen ownership and sharing, data ownership and sharing, incentives, compensation and reimbursements. The importance of community engagement was also covered. After completing the workshop programme, certificates were issued out. Finally, participants completed workshop evaluation forms and the workshop was closed.

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