Impact on global health policy and practice

6 March 2018

The Global Health Policy and Health Systems Research programme of NWO-WOTRO succeeded in getting stakeholders to pick up on the research results and generated impact on policy and practice. A cross-cutting project to help the other projects to make the connection between researchers and policy makers effectively helped achieving these results. These were the main conclusions from an external evaluation, executed by Technopolis Group, of the NWO-WOTRO research programme that finished in 2017.

The programme was tailored to ensure the relevance of knowledge generated to policy and practice in Low Income Countries (LICs). Projects were transdisciplinary in design. Knowledge institutions from LICs and stakeholders, such as policy makers or health practitioners, were involved from initial project design to communication of results, and collaboration among consortia members from the Africa and the Netherlands was generally considered to be fair. These and other features impacted the effectiveness and relevance of the programme. The installation of a cross-cutting all-African research uptake platform (Knowledge Translation for Africa, KT-Net) effectively helped to bridge the divide between researchers and policy makers.

The programme results are immediately relevant for the cross-sectoral Sustainable Development Goals agenda, in particular to Universal Health Coverage and to Health Security (AMR), but also clearly bear relevance to the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights knowledge platform in the Netherlands.

Three ambitions for global health

The specific conditions of the Global Health Policy and Health Systems Research (GHPHSR) programme were to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration in consortia of researchers from the Netherlands and Africa. The second objective was to encourage transdisciplinary cooperation and engagement throughout the research process with representatives of government policymakers, NGOs and the private sector so as to enhance the uptake of results. The third goal was to focus on ‘systems thinking’ and synergy between the six building blocks of health systems identified by WHO.

The evaluation found that the different objectives of the programme supported and reinforced each other. By focusing on complex research questions, the programme helped to underline the interconnectedness of different parts of a health system and emphasised the need for demand-led priority setting and community ownership of interventions. However, the programme’s broad and ambitious setup led to relatively fragmented outcomes and impacts; five year research programming also impaired the sustainability of achievements.

The three thematic areas have also generated high-quality insights, which have been published in high-impact journals.

Recommendations for future programming

The full report entails the following the key recommendations are:

  • Priority setting for future GHPHSR programming should be even more demand driven, led by researchers and other stakeholders from the South. Where available, national (health) research agendas of LICs should be prioritised.
  • This broader scope of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), compared to the MDGs, asks for a further shift towards integrated health systems and thinking beyond the traditional confines of healthcare systems, e.g. social determinants of health, migration and security, and climate change.
  • In future programming, a mediating research uptake initiative to help bridge research and policy and practice—such as KT-Net—should be implemented from the onset of the programme.

A problem-oriented mission for NWO-WOTRO

The now concluded GHPHSR programme was incepted during the NWO-WOTRO strategy Science for International Development (2007-2010). With this strategy plan, NWO-WOTRO turned towards a problem-oriented mission of addressing development issues and away from a geographical focus on tropical countries. This shift in focus also entailed the prioritisation in funding of interdisciplinary research, equal partnerships between Northern and Southern researchers, capacity strengthening, stakeholder participation in all stages of the research process and fostering the use of results. Research funded had to be both scientifically excellent and relevant to society. These components, which are now generic in NWO-WOTRO programming, were pioneered ten years ago. Conclusions and recommendations will be used in a recently commissioned study to highlight the added value of WOTRO approaches, expertise and services in providing knowledge for the Dutch knowledge system for global development.

The GHPHSR programme

The GHPHSR programme (2009-2017) was a joint initiative of NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development, the Netherlands Platform for Global Health Policy and Health Systems Research and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Health, Welfare and Sport. NWO-WOTRO conducted programme coordination and management.

Eight projects, each with a duration of four to five years, were granted in two successive competitive calls for proposals between 2009 and 2011, clustered in three thematic areas: antenatal and maternal health, health financing and community empowerment. In 2012, a third call was commissioned, aimed at networking and synergising activities between the projects awarded in the first and second call, and at embedding the research coalitions within global structures. The cross-cutting Knowledge Translation Network Africa (KT-NET) project was awarded in the third call.


Source: NWO