AEWG Face-to-face meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

June 7th 2019

In April, the Africa Ethics Working Group (AEWG) met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for their bi-annual face-to-face meeting. The 2-day meeting comprised a discussion of research outputs, two workshops, a business meeting, and a site visit to Amanuel Psychiatric Hospital, which was followed by a presentation of the AEWG’s research at the NeuroGAP-Psychosis Annual meeting.

AEWG members have made substantial progress on their case studies and empirical research projects since presenting them to the group for critical feedback at February’s writing retreat; Professor Eunice Kamaara has submitted her case study “Prioritising African perspectives in psychiatric genetic ethics: issues of translation and informed consent”, and Dr. Andrea Palk is ready to submit “Investigating assumptions of vulnerability – A case study of the exclusion of psychiatric inpatients as participants in African genetics research” in the next few weeks.

Highlights included a presentation of results from Dr. Janet Nakigudde on “Exploring the cultural perceptions of obtaining saliva from research participants in genetics research of severe mental illness”, and preliminary results from Dr. Violet Naanyu on “Exploring views of lay members and providers on biobanking and use of stored biological materials in western Kenya”.

The AEWG members discussing research outputs.

The two workshops focused on research capacity and skill building with the aim of sharing the expertise and talent within the group. Dr. Bizu Gelaye, Associate Director of GINGER and Assistant Professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public health, delivered an informative workshop on “Grant Writing”. Professor Eunice Kamaara facilitated a session on “Focus group discussions and qualitative data management and analysis”, chaired by Dr. Violet Naanyu and Professor Getnet Tadele.

Prof. Eunice Kamaara discussing how to code interview data.

The meeting included the election of a new AEWG Vice-Chair: Dr. Janet Nakigudde was nominated and unanimously seconded. The current Vice-Chair, Dr. Violet Naanyu, will take on the role of Chair when Dr. Adamu Addissie steps down at the end of June. The group thanked Dr. Addissie for serving as both Co-Chair and Chair over the past two years.

In order to contextualise and compare the ethical issues addressed by each member, the group visited Amanuel Psychiatric Hospital, which was established in the 1930s and is the primary specialised mental health care facility in Ethiopia. It is also the Ethiopian site where participants are approached, interviewed, and asked to provide a saliva sample as part of the NeuroGAP-Psychosis study. The hospital has 280 beds and provides services for both outpatients and inpatients across 9 wards (7 male, and 2 female).

The AEWG with Alexandra and Kiran from the Oxford Team at Amanuel Psychiatric Hospital.

The AEWG in the minivan, with Dr. Adamu Addissue providing a guide of Addis Ababa.

Professor Ilina Singh, Principle Investigator of NeuroGenE, opened the ethics session of the NeuroGAP-Psychosis Annual Meeting with an overview of the AEWG’s achievements and plans. Dr. Janet Nakigudde and Dr. Violet Naanyu gave a short presentation on their empirical research projects to the scientists and advisory board.

Dr. Violet Naanyu presenting understandings of biobanking in Eldoret at the NeuroGAP-Psychosis Annual Meeting.

AEWG members and the Oxford team at tea break (Dorcas, Erisa, Kiran, Alexandra, and Adamu).

Overall the two-day meeting was extremely productive, providing members with the opportunity to discuss ethical site issues, and spark ideas for additional research outputs. We would like to thank Dr. Adamu Addisse for hosting, the AEWG for their time and engagement, Dr. Bizu Gelaye and Prof. Eunice Kamaara for running the workshops, and the Oxford team for organising the meeting.