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Uganda's largest university will begin a two-year study this month (January) of how to improve health research and health service delivery in the country.

The two-year needs assessment will define how to align Makerere University's activities with the goals and needs of the country's health system, and devise teaching and research strategies for the university.

It intends to improve the capacity of the university not only to produce enough doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, but to ensure they best serve the illness profile of a developing country, said Nelson Sewankambo, principal of the university's College of Health Sciences.

If successful, the project — a collaboration with the Centre for Global Health at the John Hopkins University in the United States — will lay the foundations for a further 10-year collaboration to build up the university's capacity.

Uganda was among the countries singled out last year (November) in Mali at the Global Ministerial Forum on Health for Research for not having its own health research priorities (see Key African countries 'not keeping health research promises').

The project will be led by George Pariyo, head of the department of health policy, planning, and management at the university, which has about 30,000 undergraduate and 3,000 postgraduate students.

Pariyo will work with David Peters from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University.

If efforts to modernise Makerere University are successful, Sewankambo said, the project would encourage universities in other countries to do the same.

The project received a grant of nearly US$5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, announced earlier this month (1 December).