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Understanding the lived experience of Parkinson’s Disease across 7 African countries

   Population Health Sciences Institute

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  Prof Richard Walker, Dr Matthew Breckons, Dr Natasha Fothergill-Misbah  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

A growth in people aged over 60 in low- and middle-income countries means that, in addition to infectious disease, there is a large rise in age-related diseases in sub-Saharan Africa such as Parkinson’s disease. While effective drug treatment to manage symptoms exists, access to diagnosis and medication is limited. Gaining an understanding of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) from the perspective of those living with the disease in Africa is vital to understanding the challenges faced, implications of care pathways and how improvements in the management of the disease can be implemented.


Experience of PD may be impacted by multiple factors including; culture, interpretations of symptoms, stigma and the availability and organisation of health services, all of which vary between African countries.


Qualitative work will take a phenomenological approach; focussing on the lived experience of PD in SSA. A purposive sample of people with PD and their families will be recruited from clinical and community settings in seven African countries (Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania) involved in a recently commenced grant relating to PD in Africa (TraPCAf) for which Professor Richard Walker is chief investigator and Dr Matthew Breckons is a co-applicant. A maximum variation sample will be sought in order to recruit people with different severities and duration of disease, socioeconomic backgrounds, sex, age and access to healthcare. Qualitative interviews will be conducted in settings of participants’ choosing and flexible topic guides will be used to explore experience, and impact of symptoms, knowledge and understanding of PD, use of health services and self-management practices. Data will be analysed using principles of Thematic Analysis and a reflexive approach will be taken. Data will be examined within and between countries in order to understand differences and commonalities that exist between countries and if (and how) these are influenced by contextual factors such as health systems and culture. The PhD student will work with other researchers in each of the countries, as well as with the London based charity “Parkinson’s Africa”, who are collaborators on the grant, and helping to lead on the community engagement and involvement work package.

Potential Impact

Gaining an understanding of the experience of PD in the context of available health services is vital to informing improvements in diagnosis, management and drug treatment of PD in Africa. In conjunction with the other components of the TraPCAf grant this research has the potential to transform Parkinson’s research, and care, in Africa.

Supervisory team

Professor Richard Walker has been conducting research in Africa relating to non-communicable diseases for over 30 years. Dr Matthew Breckons has also been involved with qualitative research in Tanzania, including supervision of PhD and MRes students. Dr Natasha Fothergill-Misbah conducted her qualitative PhD research on this topic in Kenya, has supervised 7 MSc student dissertations to completion over the past year, and is a Research Associate on the TraPCAf project.

How to Apply:

FURTHER DETAILS AND A GUIDE TO THE FORMAT REQUIRED FOR THE APPLICATION DOCUMENTS IS AVAILABLE AT https://www.ncl.ac.uk/research/transformative-neuroscience/studentship/ . Please read the information there before submitting your application. Applications not meeting these criteria may be rejected.

Applications should be made by emailing [Email Address Removed] with:

  • a completed copy of the Application Form. A blank copy of the form can be found at: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/research/transformative-neuroscience/studentship/
  • a CV (including contact details of two academic referees).
  • a covering letter. This should explain your particular interest in the projects selected, and include any additional information you feel is pertinent to your application
  • copies of your degree transcripts and certificates
  • a copy of your passport (photo page).
  • your English language certificate (IELTS or TOEFL certificate, where applicable)

Informal enquiries may be made to the supervisors.

Funding Notes

PhD studentships are funded by the Newcastle Neuroscience Fund for 3 years. Funding will cover
tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant and a stipend (£18,543 p.a., 2022/23 rate). Applications are welcomed from students in all countries, although students from outside the UK will be required to pay full international fees. International students may be eligible for additional financial support to cover some, or all, of these fees


Reference 1: Fothergill-Misbah, N., Walker, R., Kwasa, J., Hooker, J., Hampshire, K. (2021) ‘“Old people problems”, uncertainty and legitimacy: Challenges with diagnosing Parkinson's disease in Kenya, Social Science & Medicine, 282.
Reference 2: Williams U, Bandmann O, Walker R. (2018) ‘Parkinson's Disease in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Epidemiology, Genetics and Access to Care’, Journal of Movement Disorders, 11(2), pp.53-64.
Reference 3: Schiess, N. et al. (2022) ‘Six Action Steps to Address Global Disparities in Parkinson Disease: A World Health Organization Priority’, JAMA Neurology, 79(9), pp. 929-936
Reference 4: Fothergill-Misbah, N., Moffatt, S., Mwithiga, H., Hampshire, K., Walker, R. (2021) ‘The role of support groups in the management of Parkinson’s disease in Kenya: sociality, information and legitimacy’, Global Public Health, 17 (8), pp. 1773-1783
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