$1.15 million grant creates research program at U-M for Thai nurses

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  • Contact William Foreman, (734) 647-1844, wforeman@umich.edu or MaryBeth Lewis, (734) 763-1682, lewismb@umich.edu

A U-M School of Nursing student cares for a patient in Thailand while a Thai colleague provides translation. U-M has longstanding ties with nursing programs in Thailand. Image credit: U-M School of NursingA U-M School of Nursing student cares for a patient in Thailand while a Thai colleague provides translation. U-M has longstanding ties with nursing programs in Thailand. Image credit: U-M School of NursingANN ARBOR—Heart disease, diabetes, high-blood pressure and other noncommunicable diseases will soon become the leading cause of sickness and death in Thailand as the country becomes wealthier.

To better prevent and manage these diseases, there's a growing need for research by nurses and other health professionals who play a key role in Thailand's health care system. A new project involving the University of Michigan and an institute within Thailand's Ministry of Public Health will help provide the research training that nurses and other health professionals need in the Southeast Asian nation.

The "Strengthening Nurse NCD Research and Training Capacity in Thailand" project is funded by a $1.15 million grant from the Fogarty International Center, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The center supports research and training for U.S. and foreign investigators working in the developing world.

The new program will build on the longstanding collaboration between the U-M School of Nursing and the Praboromarajchanok Institute for Health Workforce Development. Both programs will provide instructors, mentors and advisers who will create the five-year training program that begins this year.

Kathleen Potempa, the project's primary investigator and dean of U-M's School of Nursing, said that U-M will be able to share what it has learned in the past half-century of building a model Ph.D. program for nurse researchers.

"We can help train a group of people in research who will go back to Thailand to be mentors to nurses in the country who, in addition to all else they do, are dealing with a rise of chronic disease, including many conditions that we know are manageable and even preventable through evidence-based practice," Potempa said.

Benjaporn Rajataramya, a key Thai partner in developing the project, noted that her country has long taken a leadership role in Southeast Asia in managing communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, through research and policymaking.

"With the assistance of this important grant support, Thailand can now lead Southeast Asia in managing noncommunicable, chronic disease through discovery and research," said Benjaporn, senior research expert and research center chief at the Praboromarajchanok Institute.

The Thai nurses' training program will include:

  • Research training for two people each year who will spend one year doing mentored research at U-M and another year of project implementation in Thailand.
  • Short-term training—between one and three months—for eight people each year, strengthening their understanding of methodology, analysis and policy.
  • Yearly research workshops in Thailand for trainees, faculty, other health professionals and administrators in Thailand's Ministry of Public Health, universities and institutes.

Research reported in this release was supported by the Fogarty International Center and National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health under grant number: D43-TW-009883-01. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Q&A: U.S.-Thai program in research training for nurses benefits both sides

U-M's Potempa discusses her program's longstanding ties with Thailand, the role nurses play in the country's medical system and the importance of the new research project for U.S. and Thai health care:


Why is research so important in nursing?

All health care professionals are called upon to base their practices on well-researched 'evidence' that their care leads to improvements in health. Nursing has focused on research from as far back as Florence Nightingale, who was herself a noted public health researcher. The U-M School of Nursing has a strong program of research, much of it focused on chronic disease management. We are extending our support to enhancing research capacity for non-communicable, chronic disease in Thailand.

U-M has a long history of collaboration with its Thai partners in nursing. Can you describe the relationship?

I first started working in Thailand in the mid-1990s, focusing on expanding doctoral education for nurses. Later, when the Thai government moved to support universal health care, there was a significant need to expand the public health workforce to include a new role in the country for the 'nurse practitioner,' which is a recognized provider role in the U.S. and some other countries. Our efforts together then turned to building capacity for training nurse practitioners and to restructure the public health system to support the nurse practitioner role throughout the country's regions. Thailand now has a highly educated nursing workforce that can and should be leveraged to expand research capacity in chronic disease management.

The program involves collaboration that will benefit the U.S. and Thailand? What are the benefits for the U.S?

While the context of care and life are different in the U.S. and Thailand, everything we learn through research has potential benefits for all patients who experience similar disease, problems and even life situations. Further, the cross-cultural aspects of research team building fosters greater understanding of health and health care that can have continued benefit as we evolve our own perspectives of health and health policy.

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