Can Research Impact Policy and Actually Save Lives?
At the Global Maternal Health Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, one of the plenary sessions called Science for Activism: How Evidence can Create a Movement for Maternal Health focused on the need for maternal health research to be published and shared, and for research to be translated into new policies.
With regards to publishing, some journals are still charging a hefty subscription fee. This is hurting development progress. Until we have free and open access to publications for all, we are withholding information from people, especially in lower income countries. This is about creating equal opportunity for all people to have the same access to knowledge for learning and decision-making. Can publishers consider other options other than charging fees to sustain themselves? At a minimum could they give free access to residents of low-income countries? The new Global Health Science and Practice Journal may be a good model for how to provide open access health information to all.
With regards to research, the Rwandan Minister of Health, who was part of the panel, stated that “we should only do research that is saving people otherwise it is diverting money from the real problems.” According to the panel, a significant portion of research that is being conducted is not contributing to the health priorities of the countries they are meant to benefit. The Minister further explained that in her country, many research groups are doing work that the government is completely unaware of. Researchers often don’t collaborate with government in their work, and then expose issues in publications that the government didn’t even know it had.
Finally, how can we do a better job of getting research reports and publication findings translated into policies? What do policy makers need? Policy makers are asking for research results that they can use, in very simple bullets and in a non-scientific language. In other words, policy makers are not interested in having to sift though long reports and complicated data. Unfortunately, according to this panel, the research community is still failing to give policy makers what they need, resulting in delays in creating new maternal health policies.
From January 15th to January 17th, Management and Development for Health, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and the Maternal Health Task Force at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA co-sponsored the 2013 Global Maternal Health Conference in Arusha, Tanzania. Over 700 public health professionals from all over the world attended sessions to share maternal health knowledge and network with other organizations striving to eradicate preventable maternal morbidity and mortality.