Key Achievements of INDEPTH

Since its inception in 1998, INDEPTH and its growing network have strengthened demographic and health science in low- and middle-income countries by improving data collection tools, uniting research efforts and sharing results. The work has resulted in multiple monographs on population, health and cause of death as well as studies that have influenced policy and improved outcomes in LMICs, including:

  • Identifying risk factors for epilepsy: INDEPTH member centres in five countries collaborated on the largest study to date of epilepsy in Africa. The study of more than half a million people was the first to reveal the true extent of the problem, showing that adults who had suffered parasitic diseases were 1.5 to 3 times more likely to have epilepsy, and that complications during delivery were a major risk factor for children.
  • Enabling trials for Malaria Vaccines & Therapies: The Malaria Clinical Trials Alliance (MCTA) under INDEPTH leadership has provided training and improved infrastructure to ensure the successful execution of clinical malaria vaccine and therapeutic trials in ten countries across Africa. The project has increased the number of centres in Africa with the up-to-date capacity for clinical trials.
  • Assessing the Effectiveness of Anti-Malarials: The INDEPTH Effectiveness and Safety Studies of Antimalarials in Africa (INESS) has brought together seven HDSS centres to conduct effectiveness studies of anti-malarial drugs in Africa. It is the first time this kind of Phase IV study for anti-malarials has taken place in Africa under the leadership of African researchers.
  • Evaluating Child Health Interventions: The OPTIMUNISE multi-centre study (Optimising the impact and cost-effectiveness of child health intervention programmes of vaccines and micronutrients in low-income countries) uses HDSS sites in Asia and Africa as a platform to assess the effect of major child health interventions including vaccines, micronutrient supplementation and de-worming programmes. In 2011 and 2012, INDEPTH member centres published 23 papers on their effectiveness. Plans are underway to extend these efforts to other HDSSs.
  • Understanding the Impact of Aging in the LMICs: As part of the WHO’s SAGE (the WHO Global Survey on Adult Health and Global Aging) eight INDEPTH sites in Asia and Africa conducted field-tests and now help drive the programme. It aims to strengthen empirical understanding of aging across countries and to assess follow-up strategies.
  • Developing an Oral Cholera Vaccine: The Matlab HDSS rural intervention for vaccine trials yielded important findings on the effectiveness of injectable and oral cholera vaccines and diarrhoea disease control. The oral cholera vaccine tested by the Centre is now recommended by the World Health Organisation.
  • Improving Family Planning: Family planning strategies first tested at Matlab and rolled out throughout Bangladesh led to the country’s recognition as a family planning success story at the 1994 United Nations Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.
  • Ensuring the Adoption of Vitamin A: The Navrongo Health Research Centre in northern Ghana found that providing Vitamin A supplements to children below the age of five reduced the number of child deaths by one fifth, and led to the programme’s adoption throughout Ghana. Each member HDSS site organizes a regular full demographic census of all residents in its community — using detailed interview guides … Here an interviewer uses a specially designed hand held device to record up-to-date information from a respondent.
  • Identifying the Importance of Treated Bed Nets: Studies in Navrongo found that bed nets soaked in permethrine cut child deaths by 17 per cent, which led to bed net provision being incorporated into health policies across Africa.
  • Demonstrating the Effectiveness of Hib Vaccine: A study by the Kilifi HDSS in Kenya found that the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine was highly effective — and cost-effective — in reducing incidence of meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis in children, resulting in the Kenyan government reversing its decision to withdraw the vaccine.
  • Proving the Value of Retroviral Therapies for HIV: The Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, based at Mtubatuba in KwaZuluNatal South Africa, has shown for the first time in real life (as opposed to just lab-based models) that when 30% or more of all HIV-infected adults in a community are on HIV treatment incidence rates significantly decrease. A second paper in Science showed the impact of antiretroviral therapy on increasing life expectancy.
  • Launching Programs to Reduce Anaemia: A study of iron deficiency anaemia by the Vadu HDSS in India led to the implementation by Indian states of programs to distribute micronutrient Sprinkles. The Vadu site has also conducted vaccine trials for rotavirus, typhoid and aerosol measles vaccines.