Problems in the South, research in the North

Poor countries bear the brunt of health problems. Credit: Flickr/Kaj17

The problems –  such as mothers and babies dying during delivery, and inadequate care – are all there in poor countries. And the research to solve them is all there in the rich countries.

The number of publications focusing on low and middle income countries (LMICs) has increased between 2004 and 2009, according to the WHO’s Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research.

The lead authors are from the high income countries, John-Arne Rottingen, chief executive of the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services, said on Friday. Only ten per cent of health systems research on LMICs is by researchers based in these countries.

In the area of human resources for health, for example, high income countries account for 63 per cent of the publications, compared to 11 per cent from Latin America and the Caribbean,  nine per cent from the Middle East and seven from South Asia.

Grants for health policy systems research may appear to have increased in LMICs, but all this is due to international funding.

There is a  need to bridge gaps in many areas, said Rottingen. For example, between researchers and policymakers (we’ve heard that before many times);  between disease-oriented and systems-oriented research; between epidemiology and economics, and policy analysis and social sciences; and between knowledge translation and knowledge management …

There are many platforms to build too: platforms for collaborative research and training; for coordinating working methods; for creating and sharing teaching material; and for translating health systems research into a  more understandable format for policymaking.

Looks like there’s lots of bridge- and platform-building ahead …

T. V. Padma, South Asia Regional Coordinator, SciDev.Net

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