High quality research is crucial for effective health policies and programs in every country, but research capacity is not equally available around the world.
“We must invest in young researchers and in the capacity of mid-level researchers to develop and apply their skills” explained Malabika Sarker, chair of the HRP Alliance Advisory Board. ”
If we really want to improve search capacity, it can only be top to bottom. “
Here are four reasons why building research capacity – known as RCS – is crucial for a world where everyone achieves the highest possible level of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR):
RCS strengthens research communities for national, regional and global leadership
Strong researchers, institutions and infrastructures are essential for generating data that accurately reflects populations and promoting gender equality and human rights.
Since 2017, the HRP Alliance has collaborated with national and subnational research institutions in low- and middle-income countries to help create and connect a sustainable base of new researchers with SRHR expertise. This allows researchers to focus and publish on specific national and regional needs and interests. It also creates a community that can support young researchers throughout their long careers.
More than 2,200 people from 69 countries have been supported by the HRP Alliance through short courses, as well as doctoral and master’s degrees. Two recent PhD graduates participated in major UN Special Research Program HRP studies in maternal health and family planning.
“As an OMS-HRP doctoral student, my journey has not been a lonely endeavor â, said Charles M’poca Charles, presenting his research on maternal mortality and SARS-CoV-2 at Global Meeting of the HRP Alliance in September. Charles, who completed his Masters with support from the HRP Alliance, has now started his PhD at the University of Campinas, Brazil.
“I have had experience, exposure and opportunities for growth. I want to return home to Mozambique and set up a sustainable research group on maternal and perinatal health. ”
The RCS creates a favorable environment for researchers
At the heart of the HRP Alliance are regional research capacity building hubs – academic institutions selected to lead and strengthen SRHR research capacity in their regions. There are currently 7 HRP Alliance hubs: Campinas, Brazil; Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Accra, Ghana; Nairobi, Kenya; Karachi, Pakistan; Khon Kaen, Thailand; and Hanoi, Viet Nam.
The HRP Alliance connects researchers and institutions from these hubs with WHO offices, WHO collaborating centers and other special WHO programs and partnerships, as well as ongoing research projects. coordinated by HRP.
In addition to creating research opportunities, the HRP Alliance hubs are strategic responses to power dynamicsin global health. Power imbalances can create barriers to equal participation, especially for some researchers in low- and middle-income countries, and contribute to limited ownership on global health research that directly affects their communities.
The HRP Alliance also encourages fair authorship of scientific papers, encourages research groups to include women in leadership positions, and provides structured mentoring for early career researchers.
“My mentor recognized my zeal for research at a time when I really needed a program like this, helping me prioritize,” said Princess Acheampong, a post-doctoral fellow in Ghana, who is part of the first cohort of the HRP Alliance mentorship program. âI have also contacted other mentees in the program and we are now preparing a grant proposal using cell phones to improve utilization of maternal health services in Ghana, Nepal and Pakistan. “
The RCS facilitates a rapid response to health emergencies
Epidemics and health emergencies create the need to act quickly. They also recall that high-quality evidence is essential to shape real-time public health responses.
To date, the HRP Alliance has funded 23 such projects in collaboration with WHO partners, including joint calls for community-based research on health emergencies during the Zika virus outbreak (in 2016) and the mass migration crisis in the Americas (in 2019).
These collaborations have enabled the emergence of new evidence from Brazil, Colombia and Peru who have increased their knowledge on the relationship between infectious diseases of poverty and sexual and reproductive health and rights. This is relevant both in the context of Zika and in the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The HRP Alliance also helped shed light on research migrants and refugees, whose sexual and reproductive health and rights are often restricted, if not totally ignored. The latest call for proposals supports 11 research groups in Latin America undertake high-quality, context-specific research, based on local and regional priorities, with an emphasis on integrating considerations for gender equality and human rightsas well as research capacity building.
The HRP Alliance hubs have also been shown to be critical to the response to COVID-19 research, in close collaboration with the WHO. Thanks to rapid and effective networking with HRP Alliance partners at the onset of the pandemic, COVID-19 research networks were quickly established. The hubs lead WHO and HRP research related to the impact of the pandemic on health systems, pregnancy and COVID-19 risks, and women’s experiences with contraception and health care. abortion during the pandemic.
RCS reinforces the shared goals of everyone involved
Effective research capacity building is not a philanthropic side project: it is a fundamental part of sustainable SRHR research ecosystems and improving SRHR for all.
Since the launch of the new strategy in 2016, researchers supported by the HRP Alliance have made significant contributions to the implementation of WHO /HRP multi-country studies, build an evidence base on essential sexual and reproductive health and rights issues. The HRP Alliance has also shown that opportunities to participate in larger research studies can strengthen individual research capacity.
“Sexual and reproductive health and rights are a fundamental component of universal health coverage, but efforts to build research capacity to generate evidence to guide the provision of sexual and reproductive health services
are particularly rare Said Anna Thorson, Head of Unit, Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research / WHO HRP.
“The HRP Alliance has a critical role to play, by networking, supporting each other, listening and learning from each other’s work, and strengthening collaborations that will improve SRHR for all.. “