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No Health Without Research – World Health Report for 2012

Guest blog by Tikki Pang, Director, Research Policy & Cooperation, World Health Organization.

“I see no way out of our vicious cycle of poverty except through the means that science and technology has placed at our disposal”. These were the words of Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), India’s first and longest serving Prime Minister and a scientific visionary.

How many countries in the developing world have listened to Nehru? Has scientific research been applied to improve health outcomes and health equity? Despite persuasive evidence on the impressive returns for investing in research, many developing countries still do not see the value of such investments.

Pandemics of infectious disease, chronic diseases, antimicrobial resistance, food security and climate change will continue to contribute to health problems globally. In times of financial crisis and competing priorities, it is even more important that evidence and science informs health policy and decision making. Hassan Mshinda, former Director of the Ifakara Health Centre in Tanzania puts it succinctly: “If you are poor, actually you need more evidence before you invest, rather than if you are rich.”

But ministers of health often ask: “How do we strengthen research in our countries”? The World Health Organization’s forthcoming World Health Report for 2012 hopes to provide a practical ‘A to Z Guide for Investing in Health Research.’

How should research priorities be set? What human and institutional capacities are needed? How to ensure ethical and good behaviour? How to promote transparency and accountability? How should knowledge be translated into action? What is the best way to coordinate research among the many performing it, and when so many health challenges involve sectors beyond health?

Political commitment together with practical new ideas and tools are needed to help countries develop a robust and sustainable research system. Progress in science also depends on universal access to knowledge and capturing contributions from all participants.

The World Health Organization is collaborating with PLoS Medicine to develop a Collection, titled “No Health Without Research”, elaborating on the themes driving the Report. The PLoS Medicine / WHO Collection will help capture the richness and diversity of country experiences in how to strengthen health research systems. A collection in an open access platform will allow all researchers, rich and poor alike, to contribute equally to the global pool of knowledge. The sharing of such experiences will complement and reinforce the practical advice contained in the World Health Report.

Equity, access and inclusiveness will enrich science and will ultimately lead to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.

To find out more about the WHO/PLoS Collection and how it will inform World Health Report 2012, go to the collection site.

Competing Interests: Tikki Pang is with the World Health Organization’s Innovation, Information, Evidence and Research cluster and is the focal point for the development of the World Health Report 2012.

  1. Dr Tikki’s editorial is the sad reality confronting us in the developing world. Most of the time our research outputs if ever accepted by the Government are killed either in the Ministry of Health itself or are NOT in tandem with political focus/direction of the Government…..! If not, how do you explain the fact that in 2011 and up till last week Nigeria is still reporting CHOLERA EPIDEMIC…..!! What of POLIO…!!! Please don’t open Pandora’s box, this is a Nation with abundant human, material and financial resources to have eradicated/controlled Cholera and other diseases, yet it is business as usual. But hope is not lost, it is a matter of time that one day the political leadership will find its bearing or ‘the right mix’ and do what is right.

  2. It is exciting to receive a call for Papers for WHO report for 2012. Involvement of a cross section of professionals in health sector around the world arouses our expectations that a document with depth and diversity would be made available. Research in Public Health has different dimensions and is perceived in a variety by Administrators, Managers, NGO’s, Physicians, Social Scientist,s and Medical Educationists. I am tempted to document the process adopted to conduct research in and for the Health Systems in a state in India over two decades i.e. since the globalization and liberalization has broadened the base of stakeholders in health sector!

  3. It is really exciting to have a World Health Report highlighting importance of research to health and health outcomes.No doubt that health system research,operational research and basic research are vital to generating evidence and then determining future course of action.But the question remain to be answered,is the available evidence being utilized efficiently and effectively in the world especially in developing countries?
    How important it is to develop a research culture with institutional capacities and provision of resources in developing countries.I hope that the coming report will answer these key questions and will determine the way forward to promote the culture of research and evidence based decision making in the health sector of developing countries.

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