Given the choice, would the average scientist prefer to find a cure for tuberculosis or find a really effective way of getting it to people? It is the concentration on the former that Ok Pannenborg, a senior health advisor at the World Bank, highlighted this morning at Bamako 2008 in a plenary session on research for health challenges.
Health systems research, he said, is unsexy. Health systems are seen as “amorphous, abstract and vast”. How can anyone go about researching such things?
The key, he said, is not to see it as disease versus health systems research, or even disease research alongside health systems research – but focusing on better health systems for the treatment of disease.
Research, he said, is an indispensible tool for improving health systems, from identifying and understanding problems to developing and evaluating new ways of doing things.
But it’s not just in health systems that finding out how to best deliver things to people is key. Health is not just about healthcare, said Michael Marmot, chair of the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, in a video presentation during a later session.
Research into the social determinants of health has shown what can lead to poor health. It’s acting on this evidence which is the next step, said Marmot. We know that clean water is good for people’s health, let’s find a way of getting it to people.
Katherine Nightingale, SciDev.Net