In a paper published in the Lancet Global Health, recommendations are made to increase research designed to scale up health strategies and treatments in low- and middle-income countries. The paper is based on a recent seminar held at the European parliament, and suggests that SORT IT (Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative) could serve as a global springboard. Over half of all participants of SORT IT reported that their research paper had changed policy and practice.
During a recent seminar organised by STOA, the Science and Technology Options Assessment body of the European Parliament (EU), experts in the field of health and operational research (OR) concluded that the EU should increase its support for this form of research. STOA, which provides independent assessments of scientific and technological options in various sectors including the life sciences, organised the seminar in collaboration with MSF, International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (the Union) and the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR).
The authors write, “Many low- and middle-income countries are data rich but information poor. Massive amounts of routine data are collected within public health systems by ministries of health and non-governmental organizations, but are underutilised, reducing the potential impact of research on policy and practice.” They add that most data collected at the national level are of little use at the point of care.
Dr Rony Zachariah, Operational research coordinator with MSF and co-author of the paper, adds:
Operational research plays a vital role in linking knowledge and practice, says Such research must be designed and conducted in a manner that benefits programs and where possible, policy and practice. The SORT IT model of training provides health workers with the practical skills and mentorship needed to conduct and publish such research within health programs.
Solutions discussed at this seminar included embedding research into national programmes and health systems; using the SORT IT model to help recipients of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to conduct operational research; and asking the European Commission to establish a clear strategy and common policy for operational research, and increase coordination between the different Directorates-General of research and development.