MSF Scientific Days – Asia 2023: Fostering importance of research and cultivating innovation in humanitarian healthcare

9 October 2023, Dhaka – Foregrounding contemporary research and innovation in humanitarian healthcare efforts, over 50 researchers, academics and public health experts gathered at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Scientific Days – Asia 2023 conference. Organized in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Informatics (DPHI), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the event fostered crucial discussions on improving the quality of care for vulnerable populations. It inspired a knowledge exchange for practitioners and patient representatives who shared their experiences from treatment and humanitarian programs across Asia.

Since 2015, MSF Scientific Days has consistently provided a platform for providing insight and exploring the ever-evolving landscape of innovation in global humanitarian and healthcare trends. For the 2023 edition, MSF in collaboration with BSMMU brought the limelight upon challenges and solutions, which lie at the core of crucial public health issues such as tackling Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs), eradicating Tuberculosis (TB) and empowering forcefully displaced populations.

Ramon Magsaysay award-winning scientist – Dr. Firdausi Qadri delivered the keynote address. She says, “The existing public health ecosystem has created an urgent need to address emerging gaps and opportunities around areas such as innovation and the potential role that they can play in preventing the problems ahead in the public health arena of Bangladesh and  the myriad of diseases by using better diagnostics, treatment and where possible vaccines. In such a scenario, programs like Asia Scientific Days can support in bridging the gaps and bringing all key stakeholders on a common platform, thereby creating an enabling environment for cross-fertilization of ideas”.

Speakers included Dr Kavita Singh (DNDi), Dr Fariha Haseen (BSMMU), Dr Kazi Ashraful Islam (BSMMU), Dr Bhishmaraj Srivastava (MSF), Dr Pramila Singh (MSF), Dr Wasim Firuz (MSF), Dr Khawar Aslam (MSF), and Dr Surendran Rajaratnam (National University of Malaysia) among others.

Dr. Farhat Mantoo, Executive Director, MSF South Asia says, “MSF Scientific day Asia is meant to offer a platform for exchange, using evidence-based experience, among scientists, academicians, policy makers and aspiring public health researchers. The day is also aimed at putting the spotlight on forgotten and invisible contexts, populations and diseases that do not make it to the headlines, and do not get the attention and investment they deserve. Through this day we want to contribute to the discourse on health issues that need center-staging as they concern our present and future.”

The conference was possible due to the long-term vision and collaboration between MSF and BSMMU. Chief Guest- Prof. Dr Md. Sharfuddin Ahmed, Vice Chancellor of BSMMU, who also inaugurated the event, says, “We are delighted to announce our partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), one of the world’s leading humanitarian organizations, for the Asia Scientific Days in Dhaka Bangladesh. This collaboration reflects our commitment to advancing global public health through interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange. This conference serves as a platform for engaging scholars, practitioners, and students in meaningful discussions, share insights, and develop innovative solutions to address pressing health challenges around the world. We are excited to work hand in hand with MSF in this endeavor, strengthening our collective efforts towards improving healthcare outcomes for vulnerable populations worldwide.”

The abstracts received for Scientific Days 2023 covered diverse themes that balanced both emerging health challenges, including the impact of climate change and the growing role of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) while also highlighting existing health issues such as the impact of Drug-Resistant TB in resource-limited healthcare settings. Additionally, panel sessions provided a platform to brainstorm over challenges such as the need to decentralize Hepatitis-C virus (HCV) care for target population groups among senior subject matter experts.  In total, around 61 abstracts were received from across Asia and beyond (India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, Jordan, and Thailand among others).

Sessions equally focused on the need to provide medical care to marginalized populations that are excluded, hard to reach or have challenges with access and affordability to health care. The presentations on medical services for sexual and gender-based violence survivors in Kamrangirchar, Dhaka; child rights in slum settlements of urban Dhaka; access to healthcare for Rohingya women in Malaysia and primary health care in refugee camps at the Thai-Myanmar border focused on the critical gaps and explored avenues for health and humanitarian support.

The MSF Scientific Days – Asia 2023 conference aims to be a catalyst for change, a forum where the most pressing healthcare challenges are met with innovative solutions through research, dialogue and collaboration.

About Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) South Asia: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) South Asia is a leading humanitarian medical organization dedicated to providing life-saving healthcare and emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, natural disasters, and exclusion from healthcare. MSF operates in some of the most challenging and remote regions, delivering essential medical services impartially and without discrimination. With a strong commitment to serving vulnerable populations, MSF South Asia strives to address pressing health issues, advocate for access to quality healthcare, and drive positive change in the region. Through innovative programs and collaboration with local communities, MSF South Asia continues to make a significant impact on the lives of millions, offering hope and medical relief when it is needed most.

 About Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU): Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) is a premier Postgraduate Medical Institution in Bangladesh. Established in December 1965, it is dedicated to medical education, research, and the delivery of specialized clinical services, playing a pivotal role in promoting healthcare advancements within Bangladesh and internationally.

Department of Public Health and Informatics (DPHI): Department of Public Health and Informatics (DPHI) is an academic department under BSMMU’s faculty of Preventive and Social Medicine. Established in 2011 and inaugurated by Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in April 6th 2011. DPHI aims to produce future public health professionals for the country. DPHI offers a Master of Public Health (MPH) program, as well as research and training opportunities, focused on a range of health-related issues.

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