Coordinating Implementation Research to Communicate Learning and Evidence
Beati Mboya, Chief of Party, CIRCLE Project Tanzania
It was fantastic to be at Liverpool again after 10 years! After months of planning and preparation, here I am, attending the Fifth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research – a five-day programme of presentations, panel discussions and interactive dialogue at a conference which brought together experts in health systems across the globe to share practical and actionable insights and experiences.
While this is my first time at such a conference, I found the opportunity to be both insightful and rewarding – meeting and interacting with experts in the field of health systems research. Meeting with my former public health professor, Tim Martineau, from the University of Liverpool who happened to be part of the organizing committee was equally fulfilling. From him, I was able to glean the enormous effort and time that had been invested in preparing the event and in equal measure the prerequisite of engaging the right people at the right time in order to achieve intended health outcomes. Indeed, effective and appropriate stakeholder engagement is a commonly recommended best practice for many sectors and is no less important for public health experts especially as it relates to the smooth implementation of research or health programmes.
It would be remiss of me if I did not mention that the first day of the conference was very special; not just for me but also for the project I work for and other colleagues attending from Tanzania. On this day, we conducted a full house Developmental Evaluation (DE) skills building satellite session (read more here). I want to say thank you to the panel for their amazing contribution. The response to it has been overwhelming; I have had the most amazing feedback from people and participants who keep requesting developmental evaluation resources.
“My head is full of new materials from this conference but definitely developmental evaluation is unique initiative which I would like to learn more about. Thank you for the materials, I will send you an email to request additional guidance and links to web-based materials” said Daniel from the UMEA University, Sweden.
I was very impressed with the sessions I attended among them — implementation research; health systems that deliver for all; engaging the private sector; community health systems and translation of research to policy. What I took away from these sessions definitely makes what we are doing back home a work-in-progress from that point of view.
Below are seven key take away messages from the Fifth global Symposium on Health Systems Research:
1. Implementation research works
Most delegates expressed frustration by the non-use of traditional research findings leading to the desire for real-time implementation research; this approach is seen to promote quick learning and use of findings.
2. Co-designing of health systems research promotes use of findings
The concept of embedding a researcher and engaging stakeholders in identifying research priorities, design and implementation is seen to be critical in paving the way for research adoption and use.
3. Voices and views of communities must be heard
We sometimes plan interventions and research without engaging communities, mistakenly minimizing their role and knowledge on the subject. On the contrary, we all need to be fully engaged with heterogeneous communities for better research and programming.
4. Package and communicate your research findings well
As an implementation researcher, you may not be the best communicator, therefore, having an expert who can support you to package your research findings focusing on intended users is very important if you don’t want your findings to end up on shelves! One participant mentioned that he successfully engaged policy makers through a combination of approaches that included policy dialogue, briefs, summaries and informal discussions. Thinking about the local context and assessing what approach works for you is key.
5. Influencing policy change is a process and takes time
Influencing a policy change does not necessarily require complicated research with statistical tests but rather a well-planned and engaging implementation research that address pertinent issues of interest for key stakeholders and decision makers. It is also good to remember that usually decision makers do not rely on research findings alone to make a policy change.
6. Sustaining health systems strengthening
Sustaining long term efforts while promoting collaboration and synergy is key in creating community ownership and sustained community health systems strengthening.
7. Private vs public health service delivery
Both public and private sector play complementary roles in supporting and promoting health. There is need to maintain ethical standards across the board and support private for profit institutions to prioritize best practices over profits. Formulation and implementation of appropriate health policies is key to maintaining standards in health service delivery.