Dr. Edith Wakida wins an NIH to improve community-based dementia care in rural Uganda

Mbarara,Uganda March 27, 2024. Dementia is a significant public health concern, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) like Uganda. In these rural areas, where most Ugandans reside, access to dementia care is severely limited, placing a heavy burden on families struggling to care for loved ones.

 Dr. Edith Wakida, a leading expert in Implementation Science, at MUST has been awarded a prestigious R21 grant to address the growing challenge of dementia in rural Uganda. This under the Grant No: 1R21TW012563-01A1

Dr. Wakida, alongside her esteemed mentors and co-investigators Prof. Dr. Stephen Bartels, Dr. Jessica Haberer (both from Harvard Medical School), and Prof. Celestino Obua (MUST), are launching a groundbreaking pilot study titled “WHO Lay Health Worker Dementia Care, with Internal Facilitation (WLDC+IF).” This project aims to develop and evaluate a culturally-sensitive approach to delivering dementia care within rural Ugandan villages.

What is an R21 Grant 

R21 stands for a specific type of grant offered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States https://grants.nih.gov/. It’s an Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award. This type of grant is intended to support the early and conceptual stages of research projects. R21 grants are typically awarded for shorter duration (usually 2 years) and for smaller funding amounts compared to other NIH grants. They are designed to encourage innovative and high-risk/high-reward research ideas.

Addressing the Critical Need for Dementia Care in Rural Uganda

  • Nearly 60% of individuals with dementia globally reside in LMICs.
  • In southwestern Uganda, an estimated 20% of adults over 60 are diagnosed with dementia.
  • Rural communities lack access to dementia specialists and essential support services.
  • Family caregivers often face immense emotional, social, and financial burdens.

This pilot study will explore the feasibility of a two-pronged strategy:

  • Lay Health Workers (LHWs): Trusted members of the village community, LHWs will be trained to deliver dementia care using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) dementia toolkit.
  • Internal Facilitation: Health Assistants (HAs), who currently supervise LHWs, will receive additional training to provide ongoing support and ensure successful implementation of the WHO toolkit.

The Study’s Objectives

    • Co-Designing an Implementation Strategy: Researchers will collaborate with LHWs, HAs, and community members to develop a culturally appropriate guide for utilizing the WHO toolkit effectively within rural Ugandan settings.
    • Evaluating WLDC+IF Feasibility: The study will assess the ease of implementing this approach, including recruitment, training effectiveness, and the delivery of dementia care by LHWs with support from HAs.
    • Measuring Caregiver Burden: The study will explore whether this approach can alleviate the burden on family caregivers.

Expected Outcomes

This pilot study holds immense promise in establishing the feasibility, acceptability, and cultural appropriateness of this dementia care delivery strategy for rural villages. The findings will pave the way for a larger-scale, multi-site study with the potential to significantly impact dementia care in rural LMICs worldwide.

We cannot wait to see the pilot study unfold and the potential for a larger-scale impact. This project is a testament to your team’s commitment to improving global health equity. Best of luck.