Communities of practice
African initiative launched to strengthen health research
3 Mar 2009
Source: Wellcome Trust (see original article)
New grant-giving bodies have been launched in two African countries, in order to make awards to strengthen health research capacity that are in line with national research and training priorities.
The two new funding bodies, in Kenya and Malawi, have been established by the Health Research Capacity Strengthening (HRCS) initiative – a collaboration between the Wellcome Trust and the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK, and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Canada.
In Kenya, grant-giving will be implemented by a new non-governmental organization, the Consortium for National Health Research; in Malawi, activities will be undertaken within the existing National Research Council of Malawi.
The three international funders have spent the past two years working with local stakeholders to develop the necessary grant making, legal and financial frameworks required to manage their awards.
The two new grant-giving bodies will receive £10 million each over five years. The aim is to strengthen the capacity of key academic research and health policy-making institutions to generate new scientific knowledge within Kenya and Malawi, and improve its use in evidence-based decision making, policy formulation and implementation.
“Countries need to be able to develop and implement their own research strategies meeting their own priorities,” says Dr Jimmy Whitworth, Head of International Activities at the Wellcome Trust. “Through the Health Research Capacity Strengthening initiative, we aim to build the capacity of these African countries to make their own grants according to their own needs.”
The HRCS initiative aims to enhance institutional capacity for high-quality, multidisciplinary health-related research and lead to the development of national health policies and programmes formulated utilising research findings. New networks and research collaborations of this sort will enable scientific knowledge to be shared more effectively throughout Africa and across international organisations.
Graham Teskey, Head of DFID Research, said: “DFID’s focus is to ensure that research makes a much greater impact on policy and practice in our partner countries. It is our hope that the training fellowships, research grants, institutional grants and other forms of support, which will be provided by this initiative, will help counter the brain drain and attract young bright African scientists and researchers back to Africa to undertake high quality research.”
“The support for these initiatives in both Kenya and Malawi has been remarkable,” adds Dr Christina Zarowsky, who leads IDRC’s programmes related to research on health policy and health equity. “Working across disciplines and across institutions is not easy, but is increasingly seen as crucial to solving the health and development challenges Africans face.”
Learning from experience
The initiative is the first time that international funders such as the Wellcome Trust and DFID have worked together in this way, to establish funding schemes planned and developed locally. Other African countries such as Zambia have expressed interest in developing a similar scheme in their own countries.
“As funders, we are keen to learn from this experience and to ensure this knowledge is available for others to share,” says Dr Whitworth. “We anticipate that, if successful, through the HRCS initiative, we can change the way donors and funders work together and are better aligned with national priorities.”
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