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CHEPSAA meeting abuzz with course development, getting research into policy & connecting researchers

The Consortium for Health Policy and Systems Analysis in Africa (CHEPSAA) recently had the opportunity to brief colleagues in Tanzania about its work and to exchange ideas on topics as varied as building the field of Health Policy and Systems Research and Analysis (HPSR+A) in Africa, curriculum development and experiences with seeking to get research into policy and practice (GRIPP).


overall purpose increasing sustainable African capacity to produce and use high quality health policy and systems research and analysis. It recently held its third annual meeting in Dar es Salaam (10-15 March 2013) and as part of this organised a networking meeting attended by colleagues from the Ifakara Health Institute, National Institute of Medical Research and the Muhimbili University of Health Sciences.

Prof. Lucy Gilson, the coordinator of CHEPSAA, provided an overview of the consortium, including its member organisations, the different levels at which it is seeking to work - ranging from strengthening individual capacity to building the wider field of HPSR+A – and the activities supported and implemented by CHEPSAA such as an assessment of capacity assets and needs, collective workshops on various topics and curriculum development. CHEPSAA partner institutions also had the opportunity to profile selected, more specific elements of CHEPSAA’s programme of work.

Nonhlanhla Nxumalo from the Centre for Health Policy, University of the Witwatersrand spoke about CHEPSAA’s programme for emerging leaders, a series of workshops open to CHEPSAA partners and other organisations through which CHEPSAA will seek to grow a critical mass of young leaders in HPSR+A in Africa. Linked to this, CHEPSAA is also developing a set of core skills and competencies necessary for those who want to work successfully and grow in this field. Prof. Benjamin Uzochukwu, representing the Health Policy Research Group in the College of Medicine of the University of Nigeria (Enugu Campus), spoke about the different models that this group is using in its GRIPP efforts, which is currently being written up as a case study as part of efforts by CHEPSAA to document examples of its partners’ good practices.

In addition, the meeting heard from Prof. Irene Agyepong of the School of Public Health of the University of Ghana, one of CHEPSAA’s African partner organisations. Prof. Agyepong is also the chair of the newly-formed Health Systems Global, a society for those working in the field of health systems. She explained that the mission of the society was to convene different stakeholders such as researchers and policy-makers to develop the field and to unleash their collective capacity to transform health systems. The next Global Symposium on Health Systems Research will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, towards the end of 2014 and this will be a global event hosted by Africa, with opportunities for Africans working in the field to contribute to shaping the event.

The CHEPSAA partners and their Tanzanian colleagues had a lively exchange, which included discussion of:

  • Issues related to GRIPP, including monitoring and providing evidence of the uptake of research evidence by policy-makers and the effectiveness of different approaches to infusing research into policy and practice. Several speakers reflected on the desirability of models in which researchers and policy-makers jointly develop research questions or in which the research needs and questions are very much driven by government, but there was also a recognition of some of the complexities around GRIPP, including the fact that those who express the need for research might not be able to fund that research and the fact that GRIPP is not only about the relationship between researchers and governments, but is also influenced by wider sets of actors such as international development partners;
  • The needs and challenges of the field of HPSR+A in Africa, including a needs assessment implemented in 6 countries in Central and Eastern Africa that appeared to show certain similarities with CHEPSAA’s own needs assessment on issues such as the lack of collective agreement over the nature and definition of the field, as well as the lack of funding and recognition for the field; and
  • Curriculum development for the field of HPSR+A. CHEPSAA is busy developing a course entitled Introduction to Health Policy and Systems and has plans to develop an additional course on research methods and there were some questions about the exact nature of the materials CHEPSAA is developing and about the processes through which it is being done. CHEPSAA has also already uploaded two open educational resources onto its website - one on human resources for health and the other on health policy analysis – and it transpired during this meeting that these two courses are already being adapted as part of the curriculum development processes of the Nelson Mandela University in Tanzania.


BELOW Prof. Benjamin Uzochukwu of the Health Policy Research Group, COMUNEC explaining his organisation’s approach to GRIPP.

Health Policy Research Group

BELOW Masuma Mamdani, researcher at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania (left), exchanges ideas with Prof. Uta Lehmann of the University of the Western Cape in South Africa (2nd from right). Dr. Jill Olivier, University of Cape Town, and Chinenye Okwuosa of the Health Policy Research Group in COMUNEC look on.

Masuma Mamdani researcher at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania left exchanges ideas with Prof. Uta Lehmann of the University of the Western Cape in South Africa