Participants at a recently held international forum on research, health and development, have stated that the widely believed notion that governments of developing countries rely solely on international aid for research is a misconception.
“Although governments in developing countries find it difficult to meet recommended targets for research and development spending, it is a misconception that they rely purely on international aid, as they remain the major funders of research in their countries,” participants at the meeting dubbed Forum 2012 and held on the theme “Beyond Aid…Research and Innovation as key drivers for Health, Equity and Development” said.
The Forum specifically examined the prospects for a new vision of development that looked ‘beyond aid’, by focusing on developing capacities in low and middle-income countries as well as emerging economies. It also probed how global collaborations can be used to support research and innovation processes that can enhance this new era of development.
Making known discussions that were held at the meeting in Cape Town, South Africa from 24 to 26 April, 2012 a press release issued by the organisers stated that whilst building self-reliance for countries is essential, participants at Forum 2012 argued that there are benefits to collaborating with neighbouring countries – such as pooling resources and knowledge.
It divulged further, that participants called for greater cooperation between sectors within countries to drive improved health, while those from the private sector were urged to create public private partnerships in order to share funding and knowledge.
Innovation was also identified as a key factor in compensating for the lack of infrastructure and resources, especially in the form of new information and communication technologies (ICTs), with virtual collaboration, sharing of data and mobile health technology to reach rural areas, being some of the exciting possibilities.
According to the release from the organisers, Council on Health Research and Development Group (The COHRED Group), Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Health, of South Africa, participants at Forum 2012 as well had the opportunity to share experiences on how to set their own priorities for research, build capacities and provide incentives for innovation, with the need to always ensure the involvement of communities in setting the priorities for health research being a strong and recurring theme at the forum.
Also high on the Forum 2012 agenda was the issue of women’s health, although it was stressed that the focus should be on sexual and reproductive health and not simply on maternal health.
Forum 2012 was credited for an inclusive and diverse approach, particularly around the presence of young people through the ‘Youth in Motion’ (a platform for young people to have discussions and create youth networks with the goal of achieving global equity) sessions.
Speaking at the closing ceremony on behalf of Youth in Motion, Tennyson Magambo called for the increased use of ICTs and new media, and for action and social change around issues of health, equity and development.
Meanwhile, Youth in Motion is in the process of setting up a health research network portal for sharing experiences, knowledge and peer learning.
By Edmund Smith-Asante