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First Global Symposium On Health Systems Research Kicks Off In Switzerland

The First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research bringing together researchers, policymakers and donors kicked off in Montreux, Switzerland, on Tuesday, with some conference attendees calling for African leaders to do more to promote health progress in their countries, PANA/Afrique en ligne reports.

Despite the 2001 Abuja Declaration, when “African leaders committed substantial increases in their health budgets to combat killer diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS,” the news service writes that only a few nations have reached the target of allocating least 15 percent of the annual country budget to the health care sector.

During the conference, “Martin Dahinden, the director-general of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, said although progress in achieving universal healthcare financing was lacking in many African countries, Ghana was close to reaching those targets,” PANA/Afrique en ligne writes. “In the past few years, Ghana had mobilized US$ 115 million, mainly raised from consumer taxes and the Value-Added Tax (VAT) … to improve the provision of health services and fund health insurance.” The article identifies additional African nations that the news service says are “making good progress in providing universal healthcare,” including Gambia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

“The difficulty in Africa is the lack of funds, the lack of policies to guide the implementation of a national healthcare insurance system and the lack of laws and the inability of most economies to allow total healthcare financing,” Theophane Bukele, a doctoral student from the University of Kinshasa, Congo, said, according to the news service.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Research Marie-Paul Kieny called for investments in research to help strengthen healthcare systems, saying, “We now need to make real progress and to concentrate research efforts towards scaling up the delivery of health services in a way that is equitable and sustainable,” according to PANA/Afrique en ligne. The article also quotes Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, who spoke at the conference (11/17).(11/17).

“Research into health systems aims to improve health care delivery; however, multiple definitions of this type of research exist and this lack of clarity is negatively affecting the credibility, and hence progress, of this research,” argue the authors of a paper published in PLoS Medicine to coincide with the Health System Research conference, according to a PLoS press release (11/15). In the paper, the authors offer “working definitions of operational research, implementation research, and health systems research in the context of research to strengthen health systems, with the intention of providing greater clarity and consistency for non-specialists, scientists, policymakers, and donors,” they write.

Through these definitions, the authors write, “we seek to provide a simple framework that is easily understood by both experts in the field and the managers, policy makers, and donors working to improve health systems and deliver better health care. We have tried to map the three main research domains, the research targets, and the users, and to highlight the importance of context and study design in the subsequent utility of the research findings. …To improve health care delivery to poor populations, all of these research domains are very much needed,” they write (Remme et al., 11/16).

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