African leadership and international collaboration to address global health challenges: Learnings from the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA) initiative

Nafissatou Diop, Montasser Kamal, Sana Naffa, Marie Renaud, Francine Sinzinkayo


Cooperation is understood to be key for improving global health outcomes. Authentic partnering in global health1 research nurtures collaboration that addresses health problems, and expands scientific knowledge that brings benefits to all parties. The Government of Canada supports collaboration between Canadian and developing country researchers and decision-makers in providing solutions to key challenges related to women’s, newborns’, children’s, and adolescents’ health, through interdisciplinary, innovative, collaborative, and impactful research.

In March 2014, the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA) Initiative was launched as a contribution to Canada’s commitments to maternal, neonatal and child health at the 2010 G8 Summit in Muskoka, Canada2. IMCHA was jointly funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC). This CAD $36 million initiative brought together African researchers, Canadian researchers, and African decision-makers, who are the users of the implementation research evidence, for increased impact and potential for sustainability and scale. The Initiative is ending in July 2021, for a total duration of almost 8 years.

The specific objectives of IMCHA were to:

  • Address critical knowledge gaps and increase awareness among policy decision-makers about affordable, feasible, and scalable primary health care interventions to improve maternal and child health delivery and outcomes;  
  • Build individual and institutional capacity for gender-sensitive health systems and solution-oriented research, and enhance the uptake of relevant and timely research that informs policy and practice; and

 Strengthen collaborations between Canadian and African researchers, working in partnership with African decision-makers, to implement and scale up high-quality and effective services and technologies that improve maternal and child health outcomes.


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