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Analysing data to inform public health

- Deborah Minors

Biostatistics is the analysis and interpretation of data generated in the biological and health sciences to inform clinical or health policy and practice.

Professor Tobias Chirwa is a biostatistician in the School of Public Health at Wits and Head of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

“In many African countries, there is a shortage of well-trained biostatisticians. The few people that are trained are often overwhelmed. To ensure that data is used to inform public health policy and practice for the benefit of the people in Africa, we need to prioritise training of African postgraduate biostatisticians who can provide the required analysis to a high standard,” says Chirwa.

Chirwa, who heads the School of Public Health at Wits from February 2017, is one of seven leading African researchers to receive a portion of a R70 million (£3.337-million) funding injection from the Wellcome Trust and the Department for International Development in the UK.

Funding to the amount of £46 million over five years was awarded through the DELTAS Africa scheme.

DELTAS is the Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science Initiative, which aims to establish world class research environments at African universities, and training opportunities for the next generation of researchers.

Wits leads the sub-Saharan African Consortium for Advanced Biostatistical Training. This group of African and northern institutions will use the funding to develop a network of biostatisticians who will deliver statistical courses for biomedical researchers, develop and implement statistical theory to analyse health data, and create the framework for improved biostatistical skills among health researchers and academics in nine African countries.

Read more about research at Wits in Wits Research Matters.

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