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[BEIJING] A global network of scientific academies will launch four new projects this year to study health problems and train young scientists in developing countries.

The InterAcademy Medical Panel (IAMP) announced the plans at a meeting held in Beijing this week (3-6 April).

One project will gather experts from African science academies to develop better ways of diagnosing rheumatic fever, and to push for the disease's elimination by encouraging more widespread treatment.

Another will gather global data on how many mothers and children die during or soon after birth, and why. It aims to identify ways to reduce the number of deaths, especially in the developing world.

A third project will analyse the effectiveness of networks that monitor emerging diseases in developing countries.

The IAMP will also run a series of regional workshops to help young researchers improve their science communication skills.

Guy de Thé, co-chair of the IAMP's executive board, told SciDev.Net that major international funding agencies are "very interested" in supporting the projects.

Also at this week's meeting, the panel's member academies agreed to support the Disease Control Priorities Project, which aims to help developing countries maximise the returns on their investments in health (see Health agencies outline 'best buys' for poor nations).

The IAMP will help disseminate the project's findings, and will encourage governmental officials to pursue — and fund — activities the project recommends, such as promoting condom use to prevent HIV transmission.

Joel Breman, senior scientific advisor at the US National Institutes of Health says the IAMP members can help by adapting the Disease Control Priorities Project's recommendations to local situations in different countries.

The IAMP is made up of 51 medical academies and the medical wings of scientific and engineering academies.