WILLIAMSTOWN, Massachusetts — The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently announced a $15 million initiative that will support the development of a new Center for Teaching, Learning and Innovation (CTLI) in Liberia. The project includes a partnership between the University of Liberia College of Health Sciences (ULCHS), Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health and Yale University School of Public Health. More than half of the funding will go directly to ULCHS. The teams from Yale and Vanderbilt will provide oversight and technical support. This new development aims to improve healthcare in Liberia.
The project will take place over a five-year span from June 2021 to June 2026. Specifically, the joint efforts of USAID, ULCHS, Yale and Vanderbilt will create the CTLI, which will serve as a hub for research utilization. Hopefully, the CTLI will improve the resources and research capabilities of the Liberian health sector. This will also bolster the nation’s health education systems.
According to the official press release from USAID, “CTLI will advance evidence-based training for the health workforce, patient care and health policy.” The center will also dramatically increase the degree to which new research in the Liberian health sector will translate into decision-making for national health policies and practices. Thus, new research will be used more in policy decisions.
USAID chose to put the center in Liberia because the country’s healthcare systems are lacking. Healthcare in Liberia has faced a number of setbacks throughout the 21st century, which began with a series of taxing civil wars in the early 2000s.
Additionally, the Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016 impacted Liberia more than neighboring countries. With 4,810 deaths, Liberia’s total was the most of any nation in the epidemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has further stretched the nation’s healthcare system, which now lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to the healthcare workforce. Further, the system is currently facing severe resource shortages. Thanks to USAID, the new CTLI will narrow Liberia’s gaps in research practices, facilities and workers to develop a more functioning system of healthcare in Liberia.
The Source of Funding: BRIDGE-U
The funding for this project comes through USAID’s Bringing Research to Impact for Development, Global Engagement and Utilization (BRIDGE-U) program. BRIDGE-U’s goal is to engage higher education institutions to strengthen the research capabilities of USAID-partnered nations.
BRIDGE-U hopes to impact not only the cities surrounding such higher education institutions but to influence policy and practice across entire nations. The program is one of many USAID initiatives that focuses directly on research advancement. However, BRIDGE-U’s goal remains only in the healthcare field, while other programs seek to improve other STEM research.
Liberia Is Not Alone
USAID’s plan in Liberia has a twin in Guatemala. The Achieving Sustainable Partnerships for Innovation, Research and Entrepreneurship (ASPIRE) project will fund the establishment of new research and innovation centers in two of Universidad del Valle de Guatemala’s (UVG) rural campuses. UVG will also partner an American university: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Investment in research and healthcare systems is a crucial component of international affairs, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. USAID has consistently been a supporter of this investment. Now, USAID is bringing high-achieving American universities into the fold. Combining their research potential with existing facilities in areas of need will hopefully advance healthcare in many developing nations. Thus, the partnership between USAID, ULCHS, Yale and Vanderbilt will improve conditions for Liberia and for the international community.
– Sam Dils