On 30th June 2020, Dr. Pratap Kumar, a Senior Faculty member at the Strathmore University Business School was awarded a grant by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). The award is under the “BloodSafe” program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The grant title is Pathways for Innovation in Blood Transfusion Systems in Kenya (PITS Kenya).
This award is a collaboration between Strathmore University, the lead institution, the Center for Public Health and Development (CPHD) in Kenya, and the University of Pittsburgh in the United States of America (both medical and engineering faculties).
The research consortium aims to define and characterize the blood transfusion system in Kenya to provide evidence for the effective implementation of a diverse set of interventions aimed at enhancing and streamlining the availability and delivery of safe blood in both urban and rural Kenya.
The team, composed of public health, medical and engineering experts, will be working on understanding and reforming the blood transfusion system in Kenya. The BloodSafe program, a collaborative exercise with two other groups in Africa (Ghana and Malawi), is an ambitious attempt to transform the availability of safe blood across the continent.
The first phase of the project over two years will involve a detailed assessment of the entire blood system, and selection of innovations that can be tested over the next four years in systematic trials.
There is a critical shortage of blood that affects many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Blood collection rates in these regions are ten-fold lower than rates in high-income countries. The World Health Organization Global Status Report on Blood Safety and Availability 2016 reported that only 4% (5.6 million units) of the global supply of blood came from Africa. According to the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS), the country’s healthcare system requires nearly 500,000 units of blood per year. In 2019, blood collections reached only 30% of this mark.
The research team has designed a multidimensional approach that consists of three clinical pathways determining the urgency of blood transfusions, different phases in blood processing from collection to use, and distinct socioeconomic contexts within Kenya that best represent both urban and rural settings.
The blood transfusion processes span a continuum from blood donation to safe delivery that is complex, expensive, and prone to failure. The consequences are devastating; postpartum hemorrhage, malarial anemia, sickle cell disease, and all other forms of acute hemorrhage claim millions of lives each year due to lack of timely, safe blood. Thus, optimizing blood transfusion services in LMICs represents both a major health challenge and a social imperative.
The Pathways for Innovation in Blood Transfusion Systems in Kenya initiative is likely to have a significant impact on health systems in Kenya by supporting both infrastructure and policies to enable the provision of safe and adequate blood to all citizens.
Article by Juliet Hinga
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