Having a critical mass of African urban health researchers will be instrumental to increasing capacity building in the region beyond what is being done in the universities.
Dr. Blessing MBeru is an ISUH Board member and a lead for the Africa Workgroup. In this podcast, Dr. MBeru believes that his role on the board is to help deepen ISUH’s role and work in Africa where urbanization is a major demographic event that creates many challenging issues related to health. The growth of urban informal settlements has created a number of population health challenges. Blessing sees ISUH’s focus on urban health as an important organizing hub for reaching the African continent and can bring greater relevance and value to what is happening in urban health.
Dr. MBeru is anxious to help engage African thinkers and doers in urban health as members of ISUH. Africa has a lot of complexities as a continent of 54 independent countries. He is particularly interested in engaging existing observatories such as the Nairobi Urban Health Demographic Observation platform, including the one in Burkina Faso, in the development of an ISUH-Africa Urban Health Observatory. He sees researchers as the link to the local communities. His organization, APHRC, is a pan-African research center that has regional reach and can work with ISUH to connect with practitioners and policymakers.
Dr. MBeru thinks it is important to create a mapping and measurement tool for community indicators on urban health. It will be a very important opportunity for greater collaboration and engagement of practitioners in the region as well as global engagement. The APHRC has a consortium for engaging African researchers that can be used to support this effort. There are many opportunities for partnering with APRRC that will enable ISUH to extend its reach in Africa. Particularly, the opportunity to engage emerging urban health researchers in the region and can create a broader link to universities across the continent.
Professor Blessing Uchenna Mberu is a Senior Research Scientist and Head of Urbanization & Wellbeing Research Program at African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Nairobi, Kenya. He is an Honorary Professor of Demography and Population Studies, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He earned MA and PhD degrees in Sociology, with specialization in Demography from Brown University in 2004 and 2008 respectively. Prior to Brown, he trained in Sociology and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology in 1987 from then Imo State University Okigwe and a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Sociology from the University of Ibadan. Professor Mberu joined APHRC in 2008 as a Post-Doctoral Fellow. His research covers migration, urbanization, adolescent reproductive behavior and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prof. Mberu taught Sociology between 1988 and 2002, rising from a Graduate Assistant to a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Abia State University Uturu, Nigeria. In the course of his career, Prof. Mberu has authored and co-authored several peer-reviewed original articles in leading social science and public health journals, book chapters, university referred textbooks in Sociology, and technical reports across his areas of research interests.
Currently, Professor Mberu is leading work on several evidence generation research programs to inform policy and action on urban issues across sub-Saharan Africa, including a Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health project; a study on Towards Inclusive Health Systems and Infrastructure Access, focusing on enhancing the well-being of refugees in East African cities; a study on Migration and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in selected Migration Affected Communities and Migration Corridors of East and Southern Africa: In-Depth Analysis of Policies, Needs, Barriers and Rights to Service; a Fecal Waste Management in Urban sub-Saharan Africa: policy analysis and research support project and a consortium research program on Urban Africa: Risk and Knowledge. As a member of the ISUH board, Professor Mberu is committed to seeking ways and means to deepen ISUH activities and influence across the SSA region.