Passing on their expertise to Africa

Prof Richard Walker (front right) and Catherine Dotchin (back left) with colleagues who helped deliver the course and health professionals who attended.
Prof Richard Walker (front right) and Catherine Dotchin (back left) with colleagues who helped deliver the course and health professionals who attended.

CLINICIANS have held the first course of its kind in Africa to train health professionals to specialise in the care of people with Parkinson’s disease.

Staff from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust used their experiences of caring for patients in the county to hold the ground-breaking week-long course in Tanzania.

It was attended by 20 nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists from Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, who were taught how to spot the signs of the disease, diagnose patients and ease people’s symptoms through drug treatment and physiotherapy.

The course is related to the trust’s link with the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in Tanzania – where the programme was held – which has, over the last 14 years, led to improvements in healthcare.

The trust’s Prof Richard Walker and Dr Catherine Dotchin ran the course with colleagues from the UK and East Africa.

Prof Walker, who has pioneer health research into Parkinson’s disease and stroke in Africa, said: “The course was a great success.

“We were very pleased to share the knowledge and experiences we have acquired from many years of caring for patients with our colleagues in East Africa.

“Despite the many challenges to the care for Parkinson’s disease patients in East Africa, such as access to affordable and sustainable drug treatment, we have raised awareness about the disease and educated a core group of health professionals who are passionate about improving the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease.

“It is truly amazing – and I’ve witnessed it first-hand – to see the life changing differences which can be made to patients, many of whom have suffered from Parkinson’s disease for a long time, just from firstly being diagnosed and then being given physiotherapy or basic drugs.”

Due to the course’s success, the Movement Disorder Society is planning to run similar courses in other regions of Africa in the future.