Opportunities and challenges to non-communicable disease (NCD) research and training in Pakistan: a qualitative study from Pakistan

BMJ Open. 2022 Dec 19;12(12):e066460. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-066460.


Introduction: Most of the global non-communicable disease (NCD)-related death burden is borne by low and middle-income countries (LMICs). In LMICs like Pakistan, however, a major gap in responding to NCDs is a lack of high-quality research leading to policy development and implementation of NCDs. To assess institutional opportunities and constraints to NCD research and training we conducted a situational analysis for NCD research and training at Aga Khan University Pakistan.

Methods: We conducted a descriptive exploratory study using grounded theory as a qualitative approach: semistructured interviews of 16 NCD stakeholders (three excluded) and two focus group discussions with postgraduate and undergraduate trainees were conducted. A simple thematic analysis was done where themes were identified, and then recurring ideas were critically placed in their specific themes and refined based on the consensus of the investigators.

Results: The major themes derived were priority research areas in NCDs; methods to improve NCD research integration; barriers to NCD research in LMICs like Pakistan; design of NCD research programme and career paths; and NCD prevention at mass level, policy and link to the government. In general, participants opined that while there was an appetite for NCD research and training, but few high-quality research training programmes in NCDs existed, such programmes needed to be established. The ideal NCD research and training programmes would have in-built protected time, career guidance and dedicated mentorship. Most participants identified cardiovascular diseases as a priority thematic area and health information technology and data science as key methodological approaches to be introduced into research training.

Conclusion: We conclude from this qualitative study on NCD research and training that high-quality research training programmes for NCDs are rare. Such programmes need to be established with in-built protected time, career guidance and mentorship for the trainees to improve their research capacity in Pakistan.


Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Noncommunicable Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Pakistan
  • Policy Making
  • Qualitative Research