Why is there a Wide Gap Between What we Know and What we Do?

This is one of the issues addressed by one of the papers in a PLoS Medicine series on maternal, neonatal and child health in Africa. Authored by among others, MakCHS Principal, Professor Nelson Sewankambo, the article has now become part of the WHO/PLoS Special Collection, ├ö├ç┬úNo Health Without Research├ö├ç├ÿ. 

Other authors are James Whitworth and Valerie A. Snewin of the Wellcome Trust, UK.

Using research evidence for better health policy and planning is a major key area of focus, globally. The WHO is therefore focusing its World Health Report (WHR) 2012 on the theme of research for better health. This is the first time this theme is addressed by a World Health Report. This WHO/PLoS collection will enhance the key messages in World Health Report 2012. It is therefore a great achievement for one of our own faculty to have contributed to this collection.

It is hoped that the collection will ÔÇÿprovide the impetus needed to better ground healthcare decisions in research evidenceÔÇÖ.

The article tackles issues of inadequate research uptake in Africa leading to dismal performance in achieving the Millennium Development Goals targeting maternal and child health. ├ö├ç┬úWhile technical knowledge about what could be done is available, actual implementation is neither straightforward nor easy in the often difficult circumstances on the ground├ö├ç├ÿ, the authors observe.  
They go ahead and point out critical areas where they think bottlenecks reside; too many competing priorities, limited logistic capacity, lack of political will, inadequate infrastructure.
The above scenario has led to Africa├ö├ç├ûs estimated 66% and 85% maternal, newborn and child (under 5 years) deaths, which could otherwise be avoided if available research could be implemented.   

This reasoning ties in very well with the College of Health ScienceÔÇÖs new strategic thinking; socially engaged research, knowledge dissemination (perhaps more innovative and creative) and contribution to policy and public dialogue.

All this will need building the capacity of researchers to learn to engage research users, listening to the voices of those that daily deal with the issues on ground; issues of inadequate logistic capacity, of political malfunctions, of inadequate or non-existent infrastructure of the too many priorities.

Initiative to Strengthen Health Research Capacity in Africa (ISHReCA) is one of the initiatives that the authors site as a viable ÔÇÿforum for African scientists to collate ideas on capacity building and to speak with a collective voiceÔÇÖ.

The hitch with fora like ISHReCA however is that they are donor funded which raises concerns about sustainability; African governments need to come in and earmark funds for research and capacity building for research.

This paper makes interesting reading, especially for those working on issues of health research uptake and capacity building.   To access the full paper, click on the following link Improving Implementation: Building Research Capacity in Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health in Africa
You can also seek out Professor Sewankambo (sewankam@infocom.co.ug or principal@chs.mak.ac.ug) for further discussion of the issues raised in the article.