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Mona, Jamaica

Site Institution: Caribbean Institute for Health Research, The University of the West Indies (CAHIR)
U.S. Institution: University of Arizona
Research Areas: Nutrition, Cardiovascular Disease, Physical Activity, Cancer

Site Description:
The University of the West Indies (UWI) was founded in 1948 as a College of the University of London and achieved full university status in 1962. It is an autonomous regional institution supported by and serving 15 countries in the West Indies. UWI is committed to the development of the region through the training of its human resources, conducting research, delivering advisory services to governments as well as to the private sector and forging links with other institutions in the wider region and the rest of the world.

The University currently has five campuses that serve diverse communities across the Caribbean region ─ Mona (in Jamaica), Cave Hill (in Barbados), St. Augustine (in Trinidad), the five island Campus (in Antigua) and an Open Campus with distance-learning sites (50 physical locations), which includes the above mentioned islands, The Bahamas and 13 other English-Speaking Caribbean countries including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia and The Cayman Islands. All campuses deliver high-quality education, research, and services to all 15 contributing countries that support the University, as well as the British Virgin Islands and the Turks & Caicos Islands. The University of the West Indies currently has a
total enrollment of over 39,000 students, and graduates approximately 5,800 students annually (at undergraduate, graduate and diploma levels).

As such, the Caribbean Institute for Health Research (CAIHR), formerly the Tropical Medicine Research Institute, was established on October 1, 1999 by the UWI to increase the output of research in major areas affecting the health of regional peoples, increase the number of trained research scientists working in health and to facilitate the uptake of research into policy, programs
and practice, thereby contributing to the improvement in the health status of Caribbean peoples. It has three units located at Mona in Jamaica (the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit, the Epidemiology Research Unit, and the Sickle Cell Unit), and one unit at Cave Hill in Barbados (the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre). Through these units, the Institute is active in research on nutrition, child development, chronic non-communicable diseases (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, haemoglobinopathies [sickle cell disease], chronic kidney disease) as well as climate and health and provides teaching at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels for medical, and nursing students as well as students of other health disciplines. The CAIHR also offers doctoral programs in nutrition and epidemiology. The CAIHR has office spaces, computer workstations and three servers to facilitate the IT demands of staff and students. There is high speed intranet and internet access.

Brief descriptions of CAIHR’s four units and their work are provided below:

The Sickle Cell Unit: The Sickle Cell Unit (SCU) is the only comprehensive facility for the care of persons with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) in the English-speaking Caribbean. It seeks to improve the lives of individuals with haemoglobinopathies through rigorous Biomedical Research, Education, and Clinical Care. it continues to be one of the largest such facilities world-wide with over 5000 patients registered in its database.

The Tropical Metabolism Research Unit: The Tropical Metabolism Research Unit (TMRU) has a Clinical Research Facility (CRF) and TMRU Laboratory as well as offices for clinical, research, administrative, and laboratory staff. Staff at the TMRU have expertise in the use of stable isotopes in metabolic investigations in particular in infants and children. A new area of focus on the impact of climate on health in Low- and Middle-Income Countries and Small Island Developing States is also being led by this Unit.

The Epidemiology Research Unit: The Epidemiology Research Unit (ERU) was established in 1999 and is comprised of two groups ─ a Child Development Group with experience in cognitive evaluation and the development of interventions to improve child development, promote prosocial behaviours and childhood resilency and a Chronic Disease Group, focused on obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes etiology and interventions with special emphasis on health in urban settings.

The George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre: Created in 1992, the GA-CDRC is the only unit of CAIHR situated physically outside of Jamaica, in Barbados, the easternmost island of the Caribbean, and was incorporated into CAIHR in 2001. The GA-CDRC responds to the emerging population health challenges experienced by the small island developing states of the Caribbean. It has a strong track record in undertaking population-based epidemiological research, including research arising from data collected by the national surveillance system monitoring the burden of the major NCDs affecting Barbados ― incorporating the only multi-NCD registry in the Western hemisphere.

Other site features include:
  • Opportunities for hands-on field work under the supervision of experienced investigators
  • in the areas of interest.
  • Collaboration with the Jamaican Ministry of Health
  • Participation in seminars and lecture series
Current or recent projects include:
  • Determining the impact of Aedes-borne arboviruses on the health and well-being of Jamaicans.
  • Extending a Caribbean Based Cohort to Promote US- Caribbean Comparisons to facilitate research addressing Black Health Disparities
  • An Integrated Violence Prevention and Early Childhood Development Programme Across Home and School Settings for National Dissemination in Jamaica
  • The impact of COVID-19 Control Measures on NCD Risk Factors and Metabolic Health: A Comparison Of 3 Caribbean Countries
  • Implementing And Scaling Up a Team-Based Care Strategy for Hypertension Control in Colombia and Jamaica