COHRED, policymakers collaborate in health and development research

Policymakers, businesses, CSOs and partners joined the Council on Health Research and Development Group (COHRED), to stimulate research and innovation for health and development last week, from April 24 to April 26, 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa.

In a three-day discussion dubbed Forum 2012 on the theme, “Beyond aid…research and innovation as key drivers of health, equity and development’ panellists – including Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology, South Africa, deliberated on how systems can be put in place to help countries design their own effective and self-sustaining health and development solutions through research and innovation.

According to a press release on the forum, Minister Naledi Pandor, started the discussion by highlighting how investment into health research is important, not only for the African continent, but for the global community. It quoted her as citing the alarming presence of tuberculosis throughout the world as one of the many reasons why research needs to be done.

In order to achieve this, “establishing partnerships is very important to ensuring our growing investments in research and innovation will lead to practical solutions and better health for the people of our world,” Pandor said.

Also contributing, Professor Carel IJsselmuiden, Executive Director of The COHRED Group, said lower income countries should not be doing research or producing products specific only to their own country, but should rather have global goals. “There is no reason why an African scientist can’t compete beyond their country. This is another reason why we have to move beyond aid,” said IJsselmuiden.

For her part, Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Assistant Director General of Innovation, Information, Evidence and Research, said lower income countries need help to achieve this, urging Forum 2012 to assist countries to become leaders in their own research and development. According to Kieny, there needs to be a transfer of technology and support of local production for this to happen.

In response, Mario Ottiglio, Associate Director of Public Affairs and Global Health Policy, International Federation of Pharmaceuticals Manufacturers and Associations, said his organisation would be assisting lower income countries by contributing expertise to Forum 2012 on technological transfer, as well as on neglected tropical diseases.

Dr. Jailson de Barros Correia, Director of the Department of Science and Technology at Brazil’s Ministry of Health said that increasingly developing countries are becoming more interested in helping themselves. According to de Barros Correia, this is evident on a micro-level in Brazil where the poorer sections of the country want to devise solutions, rather than being part of the problem. “These countries want to be protagonists in that history. We want to be more pro-active,” he said.

De Barros Correia also emphasised that health and development are inextricably linked to each other. “Health is development. Through health you reach development, and there’s no development without health,” he opined.

In response to questions from the floor, Professor Bongani Mayosi, Chairperson of the National Health Research Committee of South Africa, said it will be impossible to go beyond aid if governments are not looking beyond health research. “We need to be sure that we’re translating the research into useful products, like policies, health programmes and clinical practise.”

Mayosi used South Africa as an example, where no formal mechanisms are in place to ensure that research that is being undertaken is translated into policies, which in turn should benefit patients. For this reason, Mayosi was adamant that governments need to be held accountable.
Panellists also emphasised the need for government departments to collaborate when it comes to research funding, while Mayosi said these collaborations need to be well coordinated in order to be successful. He said the role of the National Health Research Committee of South Africa was to do just this: Coordinate organisations in their research and draw them together instead of competing against each other.

‘Forum 2012’, was jointly organised by the Council on Health Research and Development Group (The COHRED Group), the Departments of Science and Technology and Health of South Africa.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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