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For more than 30 years, USAID has played a global leadership role in supporting research that advances public health programs and tackles the main causes of under-5 mortality and morbidity in developing countries. Notable examples of USAID’s achievements in child health research are vitamin A supplementation to prevent blindness, morbidity, and mortality; field testing of delivery systems for ivermectin, the most effective drug against onchocerciasis; field testing of insecticide-treated nets, and the development and testing of oral rehydration salt solutions (ORS).
USAID’s Child Health Research Project (CHR), 1996–2003 focused on research that addressed the major causes of morbidity and mortality in children. Through CHR support, coordinated, multicountry trials were conducted, leading to the development of global standards, guidelines, new tools, approaches, and interventions. Major accomplishments of CHR included the field testing of ORS for the treatment of diarrhea; identification of and new treatments for the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance; field testing of new vaccines against Haemophilus influenzae type b for the prevention of pneumonia in children; the validation of the verbal autopsy for determining causes of infant mortality, and the identification and development of zinc as a treatment for diarrhea. Learn about CHR’s Achievements and Project Highlights.
In 2002, in anticipation of a design for a new generation of health research activities, USAID commissioned an external evaluation of CHR. The main recommendations were the following:
- USAID should continue to support the current focus on child health research as a priority activity and support research capacity building in developing countries.
- A follow-on child health research activity should invite competition/participation by a range of U.S. academic/research institutions, developing country and international research institutions, and international organizations to maximize flexibility and access to technical and country-specific expertise.
- A new activity should have a greater emphasis on collaboration and consultation with a wider spectrum of USAID and global public health priorities (e.g., malaria and HIV/AIDS) and involve increased formal partnerships with U.S. and international organizations, United Nations agencies, and foundations.
- A support contractor should be used to facilitate managerial and administrative functions, including communication and project coordination.
- A technical advisory group should be established to review progress, help facilitate research agenda setting, and coordinate with other key stakeholders.
As a result of the evaluation, a new research-to-use framework was designed under which USAID planned to carry out a significant part of its future health research activities. This framework takes into account the recommendations of the evaluation for increased capacity building; competition and participation from a wider range of partners; and collaboration and consultation with a wider spectrum of USAID and global priority initiatives.
Building on the successes and findings from CHR and the external evaluation of CHR, the Health Research Program (HaRP) was established in 2003. HaRP provides USAID with mechanisms by which to conduct health research for the development and testing of new and better tools, technologies, approaches, policies, and/or interventions to improve the health status of infants, children, mothers, and families in developing and transitional countries. Under HaRP, from 2003 – 2009, the Global Research Activity sought to advance the health status of infants, children, mothers, and families in the areas of maternal and neonatal health, micronutrients and dietary interventions, acute respiratory infections (ARIs), and tuberculosis (TB), and other infectious diseases and the Child Family Applied Research Cooperative Agreement, also known as the Country Research Activity, conducted health research on the development and testing of new and better tools, technologies, approaches, policies, and/or interventions to improve the health status of infants, children, mothers, and families in developing countries. HaRP currently comprises of the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Health Research Challenge for Impact (HRCI) Project and USAID’s Translating Research into Action (TRAction) Project, which is managed by University Research Co., LLC. These two research activities fall under the USAID research-to-use framework. The HRCI and TRAction Projects, along with a range of other existing and future USAID health, nutrition, and family planning research activities, provide USAID with important mechanisms to address critical global health issues.