The Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (MRCG at LSHTM), in collaboration with local stakeholders, held an open day closing festival in Farafenni – North Bank Region on Tuesday 28 March 2022, to mark the end of the PRECISE Project.
PRECISE (PREgnancy Care Integrating translational Science Everywhere) is an observational study that was created to investigate health issues of pregnant women and their unborn children linked to placental disorders, namely hypertension in pregnancy , foetal growth restriction, and stillbirth.
Over the past three years, the MRCG at LSHTM was one of the three recruiting sites of the PRECISE consortium, with the aim of developing a unique cohort of biologically and contextually characterised pregnant and non-pregnant women of reproductive age, to support research into placental disorders in sub-Saharan Africa. This consortium was coordinated by Kings College London and funded by the MRC.
Dr Hawanatu Jah is the PRECISE Clinical Study Coordinator. She is passionate about saving women’s lives and improving health in Sub-Saharan Africa, and has interests in perinatal mortality and morbidity, health systems strengthening, and capacity building in maternal and child health.
In her opening remarks, Dr Jah said, “The PRECISE study was implemented in three countries and despite a COVID-19 break of 6 months, we recruited a total of 1800 non-pregnant women and more than 5500 pregnant women resulting in a huge amount of clinical information and more than 350,000 biological samples in the freezers. In The Gambia, we recruited 600 non-pregnant women in collaboration with our MRCG at LSHTM colleagues in the Health and Demographic Surveillance Systems (HDSS) team, and we recruited 1,252 pregnant women from our hosting health facilities in Farafenni, Illiasa and Ngayen Sanjal”.
She added, “We are very grateful for every woman who joined the PRECISE study. Without your contributions, we would be empty-handed. The analysis has begun, and results will be shared with policy makers once available”.
Professor Martin Antonio spoke on behalf of the Unit Director and Principal Investigator of the PRECISE study Professor Umberto D’Alessandro. He said, “We must thank our local stakeholders especially the women who were instrumental towards the success of this study. Special thanks to the Ministry of Health and the Regional Health Directorate for making our work in this region very easy. The MRCG at LSHTM is committed to improving health through research, with the vision of leading research and training within the sub-region and beyond.”
The MRCG at LSHTM has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with the Ministry of Health (MoH). This collaboration has led to the initiation and completion of many research trials in the various regions across the country.
Speaking on behalf of the Regional Health Director, the Regional Health Promotion and Education Officer Ebrima F Colley said, “We are all aware of the significance of this trial towards improving health in The Gambia and within the region. Clinical trials are a key research tool for advancing medical knowledge and patient care. The participation of the communities was crucial to the success of this trial and the data will help to strengthen the health system.”
Lamin Saidykhan, the Governor of North Bank Region, commended the efforts of the MRCG at LSHTM and spoke about the significance of the study. He said, “I must express gratitude to the MRCG at LSHTM for providing this study for our healthcare system to deliver quality service for every citizen in the country. The MRCG at LSHTM is doing a great service complementing the efforts of the MoH. I know the research findings will help to address the causes of poor pregnancy disorder and how to improve complications for women during birth.”
As a goodwill gesture, the PRECISE team donated 5000-litre water tanks to the Ministry of Health and the hosting health facilities in Farafenni, Illiassa and Ngayen Sanjal. Study participants received pans and wrappas as a token of appreciation.
The event was attended by community leaders, project staff, and study participants. The drama groups performed short plays on the role of MRCG at LSHTM in leading research in the sub region, and the importance of the PRECISE study.
As PRECISE closes the follow up study PRECISE-DYAD was launched in July 2021. Where PRECISE was looking into the health of the pregnant women, PRECISE-DYAD is now investigating the health trajectories of mothers and their children following pregnancies complicated by placenta disorders.
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