Sickle cell disease: Translating clinical care to low-resource countries through international research collaborations.


The vast majority of the world's population of children and adults with sickle cell disease (SCD) are born in low-resource settings, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and India. As a result numerous well-established, cost-effective, and evidence-based strategies for managing SCD such as newborn screening, early education, vaccinations, screening for stroke prevention, and treatments with safe transfusions and hydroxyurea are often unavailable, leading to substantial morbidity and increased mortality. Collaborations between high-income countries and these low-resource settings (North-South partnerships) have been advocated, with the goal of improving clinical care. Based on directives promulgated by the World Health Organization, we have developed a strategy of developing prospective research programs that focus on training, capacity building, and local data collection. This strategy involves consideration of important guiding principles, full partnerships, proper planning, and financial issues before program launch, after which rigorous program management is required for full effect and long-term sustainability. Ultimately these collaborative research programs should help create national guidelines and lead to improved clinical care for all children and adults with SCD.