“CHEPSAA helps to build critical mass of African health policy and systems researchers”- WHO Director
“The Consortium for Health Policy and Systems Analysis in Africa (CHEPSAA) has been incredibly relevant in building a critical mass of researchers and analysts in health policy and systems research (HPSR) on the continent, living and working in the context of Africa, helping to shed light on how we understand health systems, which has become critically important.”
This is the view of Dr Delanyo Dovlo, the new director of the Health Systems and Services Cluster at the WHO’s Regional Office for Africa. Dr Dovlo attended CHEPSAA’s recent African networking meeting, which took place in Johannesburg from 27-29 January 2015.
“It has been unclear what countries mean and how they can get their health systems to perform efficiently and effectively. The Ebola outbreak has highlighted the need for health systems to be resilient and robust, able to withstand shocks. It has helped us to start rethinking how we view health systems.”
Dr Dovlo said without a doubt one of the greatest challenges facing the new regional director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, once she takes office in February is not only how to restore and rebuild more resilient health systems in countries affected by Ebola, but also to bring this onto the agenda of all the countries in the region. “It is clear now that without these new systems, we can’t have good health services. How do we get there? It has been said that we can go anywhere in the dark, but the light that shows us the path is research and evidence.”
Dr Raghad Hadidi (l), Dr Delanyo Dovlo (c) and Marsha Orgill (r)
Building the field across Africa
WHO AFRO is making major efforts to build the field of HPSR in Africa. Francophone countries pose a challenge, not only in terms of health systems research, but because the concept and thinking has not gelled as well as in Anglophone countries. “We have started working intensely on encouraging these countries to structure their national health policies, strategies and plans along internationally agreed standards as the first step towards looking at systems more effectively. We are also making efforts to set up Health Systems Observatories in these countries. We think this is one of the best ways of bringing researchers, commentators, politicians and policy makers together to use these new trial observatories to better understand how to respond to health systems needs and challenges.”
One way to remove the linguistic barrier was to encourage Francophone students to study in Anglophone institutions with a lot of HPSR experience. Another challenge would be getting Francophone academic institutions to appreciate and understand the field of HPSR and analysis. WHO is considering how its Anglophone WHO Collaborating Centres can be introduced in Francophone countries as a way of sharing the knowledge more widely.
Harnessing CHEPSAA’s outputs for Africa
Dr Dovlo said there were several avenues for sharing CHEPSAA’s outputs in Africa. One was to have some of the major institutions involved to lead work on HPSR as Collaborating Centres to build capacity for other countries in the region which were not part of the consortium. A second area was to share the enormous experience, materials and resources coming out of CHEPSAA with some of the other African networks, such as the African Health Economics and Policy Association and groups working on leadership and management.
“We should also not miss the opportunity of having a forum where the partners and other interested parties can come together from time to time. I attended my first Health Systems Symposium in Cape Town in October, and it was a wonderful opportunity to share lessons learned. My first thought was whether we could get support for something smaller, maybe focused on certain topics, but an African forum as a way of continuing the legacy that has come out of CHEPSAA,” he concluded.