Wednesday, February 22, 2017

UWI’s Tropical Medicine Research Institute renamed, Now the Caribbean Institute for Health Research

The University of the West Indies on Thursday, February 9 officially unveiled the Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR) to the public at a special event held at  the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

The Institute, which health professionals and policymakers were familiar with as the Tropical Medicine Research Institute (TMRI) at the University of the West Indies, was granted its name change on May 27, 2016, at a meeting of the University Finance and General Purposes Committee. The committee also approved CAIHR as the official acronym for the Institute.

“TMRI has an excellent record in conducting world-class research that addresses regional and global health priorities,” said Professor Susan Walker, director of CAIHR, which operates under the Office of the Vice-Chancellor. “CAIHR will build on this and expand our work on effective health interventions.”

The entity’s mandate, originally established on October 1, 1999, was to increase the output of research in the major areas affecting the health of people across the region. It continues to execute this mandate through its four constituent units: The Chronic Disease Research Centre (CDRC) at UWI Cave Hill, and the other three at the UWI Mona — The Epidemiology Research Unit (ERU); The Sickle Cell Unit (SCU); and the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit (TMRU).

Over the decades, the CAIHR staff, many of whom have won university, national and international awards, have participated in landmark and groundbreaking research that has informed and influenced many policies and processes not just regionally but across the world. 

Professor Dale Webber (left), Pro Vice-Chancellor of UWI, Mona and Professor Susan Walker (third left), director of the newly launched Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR) stand with the evening’s awardees (from second left) Dr Christine Powell, senior lecturer in the Child Development Research Group in the Epidemiology Research Unit; Thalia Lyn, CEO of Island Grill and inaugural CAIHR Award winner; Sharon Howell, senior medical technologist at the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit; and Professor Alafia Samuels, director of the Chronic Disease Research Centre (CRDC), who collected on behalf of Professor Henry Fraser, the founder of the CRDC. The awards were presented at the rebranding ceremony on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.
Research findings have led to the shaping of treatment guidelines for sickle cell anaemia and childhood malnutrition. Two examples of policies informed by the research are Jamaica’s School Feeding Programme, and the National Health Fund.

The “Reach Up Training Package”, which was created by the ERU, is used in Brazil, Zimbabwe, Guatemala and has influenced programmes as far as Bangladesh, India and China.

“This name change signifies a re-intensification of focus”, said Professor Marvin Reid, Acting Director of the Institute. “We  plan to not only  build on our successes to date, but are exploring new relationships and new ways of making our services available to the public.”  

One of these early endeavours saw an inaugural CAIHR award being bestowed on local fast-food chain Island Grill at the rebranding function.

“Island Grill has demonstrated through its actions and activities in 2016, that it too shares our vision of improvement in the health of Caribbean peoples,” said Reid. “It has adjusted its menu to provide healthier cuisine and to give caloric counts of its meals, so customers can make informed decisions. It has also moved to the use of more environmentally-friendly meal packaging.”

The award was accepted by Island Grill CEO Thalia Lyn.  

Staff Honour Awards were presented at the function to Sharon Howell of the TMRU; Dr. Christine Powell of the ERU; and Professor Henry Fraser of the CDRC.

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