Innovations for equity

Learning by doing and applying our learning: What are the strategies and institutional options?

In Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, Uncategorized on November 23, 2010 at 2:39 pm


Learning by doing sounds a nebulous concept but actually it is crucial in health systems development. If we can’t understand the process of intervening in the system and the positive and negative outcomes of our actions how can we improve the work that we are doing? The last decade has seen a rapid increase in the number of institutions such as learning platforms, health observatories, and think tanks. But at the same time, there is a lack of clarity in the difference between them, as well as their pros and cons.

This Future Health Systems Consortium session at the Global Symposium included presentations from the Asian Observatory on Health Systems, The Zambian Forum for Health Research, Health Intervention and Technical Assessment Program (HITAP) Thailand and The China National Health Development Research Center. It tried to better understand the work that they are doing as well as the challenges that they face.

Some of the challenges facing these learning organisations were unique:

  • Those that were independent of government, such as ZAMFOHR, had advocate for evidence-informed policy in order to create demand for their products and also overcome constraints in financial resources;
  • Because of its multi-country focus, the Asian Observatory at times struggled (1) to establish new research networks in the area and (2) to maintain focus on both context and comparability in spite of its wide ranging membership, which includes a mix of HIC an LMIC and;
  • HITAP grew fast and is struggling with spreading increasing demand across a small pool of qualified candidates, of which many are seconded to the government and might be vulnerable to conflict of interest.  

However, many were common to all for example: Maintaining the independence of research whilst working closely with policy-makers; Developing a systematic process for soliciting research priorities from key stakeholders; Maintaining an adequate level of financial resources and sustainability; Serving as a knowledge translation platform at the national level, in a context that involves several other actors conducting research; Learning by doing in a period of rapid policy change – where research often comes after policy or policy requires quick answers to questions that take a long time to research; Reaching a balance between producing research for national priorities and “global public goods” and; Guiding policy-makers to the “right” evidence.


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