Cochrane Nigeria recently launched as a full Cochrane Centre. Here they reflect on their journey and contributions over the past 15 years.
Cochrane takes hold in Nigeria
The story of Cochrane Nigeria dates back to 1998 when Prof. Martin Meremikwu, by chance met Prof. Paul Garner, the Coordinating Editor of the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group, at the Centenary celebration of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Prof. Garner introduced Prof. Meremikwu to the Cochrane Collaboration and gave him a head start in the conduct of systematic reviews. In 1999, Prof. Meremikwu conducted his first systematic review on “Blood transfusion for treating malaria anaemia”. He went on to convince as many colleagues of his as he could to learn the art of preparing Cochrane systematic reviews; working from a small office at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital Calabar, which was later moved to a more spacious office at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital. He mentored them through personal and group mentorship programmes, regular in-house training, hands-on experience as co-authors/authors of systematic reviews and by sharing Cochrane Collaboration literature.
In the bid to build capacity to conduct systematic reviews in the country, an initial group of five young potential Cochrane review authors under the oversight of Prof. Meremikwu received support from the Effective Health Care Research Programme grant held by Prof. Paul Garner to attend 4-week Systematic Review fellowship at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. During the fellowship they received direct mentoring and coaching and also participated in the Critical Appraisal Module of the Master’s in International Public Health Course. Among these forerunners were Prof. Angela Oyo-Ita (Community Physician), Prof. Afolabi Lesi (Paediatrician), Prof. Godwin Aja (Public Health), Prof Bosede Afolabi (Obstetrician), Prof Christy Okoromah (Paediatrician) and Dr. Oluseyi Oniyangi (Paediatrician). Today, they are all accomplished academic researchers and professionals who have continued to contribute to the work of Cochrane while promoting and building capacity for evidence-based healthcare in their home institutions and at various levels of influence. Prof. Afolabi Lesi currently Chairs the Advisory Board of Cochrane Nigeria.
In September 2005, more young Nigerian researchers and health professionals were supported by the Nuffield Foundation to attend a one-month Cochrane Protocol Development Course organized by the South African Cochrane Centre (SACC) under the auspices of the Reviews for Africa Programme (RAP). Some of these authors were later invited to the RAP Finishing School in 2006. The effort of Prof. Jimmy Volmink (then Director of the SACC), Mrs. Joy Oliver, Mrs. Elizabeth Pienaar and Prof. Taryn Young towards making the experience of participants at the RAP course an unforgettable one is worth mentioning.
Capacity and contributions grow
Following the increase in the number of Cochrane authors in the country and the capacity of the Nigerian authors to conduct high quality systematic reviews, the Nigerian Branch of the South African Cochrane Centre was formed in 2006 with Prof. Martin Meremikwu as the Branch Director and Prof. Angela Oyo-Ita as the Deputy Director. In 2017, Cochrane African Network was formed with Cochrane Nigeria leading the West African Hub of the network.
Some of the notable contributions of Cochrane Nigeria to global health were conduct of systematic reviews and provision of technical input towards WHO Guideline on Female Genital Mutilation; systematic review on “Seasonal Malaria Chemoprophylaxis” and “Artemether for Severe Malaria” on which the current WHO guidelines on the management of these health conditions are based. The Centre collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health to develop a guideline on the management of diabetes. In partnership with professional groups, it has provided support for the production of guidelines for the management of community acquired pneumonia in children, hypertension and post-partum haemorrhage.
A cross section of Cochrane Nigeria Directors, Staff, and Associates
Full Cochrane Centre launched
Cochrane Nigeria attained full Centre status in December 2020 following the approval of its application by the Governing Board of Cochrane. Cochrane Nigeria had been an associate centre under Cochrane South Africa. Today, Cochrane Nigeria has nodes strategically located in the different parts of the country. The Centre is running with the clear mandate of promoting collaboration and evidence based health care policy and practice in the country through:
- Production of high quality and high priority systematic reviews
- Dissemination of Cochrane reviews to relevant stakeholders using channels such as social media, newsletters, podcasts and mass media
- Multilingual translation of relevant reviews
- Translation of evidence from reviews into policy and practice
- Refining the methods of Cochrane reviews
Cake to commemorate the Launch of Cochrane Nigeria
Launch of Cochrane Nigeria as a full Cochrane Centre
Cochrane Nigeria recently hosted the 4th Cochrane Africa Indaba. Cochrane Africa is a network of Cochrane entities in sub-Saharan Africa established in 2017. A key highlight of the Conference was the Launch of Cochrane Nigeria as a full Cochrane Centre. The event brought together a number of notable personalities from various organizations including the World Health Organization Nigeria, European Union delegation to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, National Health Insurance Scheme, and Federal Ministry of Health – all key stakeholders in evidence based health care in Nigeria.
With the formal launch of Cochrane Nigeria on the 13th July 2021 at the National Hospital, Abuja, the Centre now has a good launching pad for engagement with relevant stakeholders for the achievement of its core mandates in the country and continent. What started as a humble beginning in 1998 has now metamorphosed into a global movement, impacting on the health of people globally. The days ahead look very promising as we hope to engage more meaningfully with relevant stakeholders and policy makers, increase capacity for the production of high priority systematic reviews that will inform national and global policies and practices, strive for a strong national presence and support evidence-based decision making processes in the Federal Ministry of Health and other health-related sectors of the country.
Prof. Martin Meremikwu (Director, Cochrane Nigeria). Prof. Afolabi Lesi (Chair, Advisory Board, Cochrane Nigeria) being interviewed by the Press.
Prof. Angela Oyo-Ita (Co-Director, Cochrane Nigeria) giving opening remarks. Dr. Anthony Ayeke (EU Delegation to Nigeria & Ecowas) and Prof. Martin Meremikwu (Director Cochrane Nigeria).