Prof. Fred Segor, PS Kenya Ministry of Health makes his keynote address during the opening of the 3rd National Research to Policy Dialogue at the Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club on June 19, 2014.

“We shall not allow any new health policy which is not supported by research evidence …” Prof. Fred Segor, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Health

The Kenya Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Consortium for National Health Research (CNHR), the National Commission on Science and Technology (NACOSTI) and AFIDEP, convened a high-level conference to deliberate the barriers and opportunities for increased research use in decision-making in Nairobi from June 19-21, 2014.

Speaking at the conference’s opening session, Prof. Fred Segor, the Principal Secretary (PS) for Health, said that the Ministry would not allow any new policy that is not supported by research evidence. To make this a reality, the PS committed to continue strengthening the newly established Division of Health Research and Development (DHR&D) through financial and human resource support.

Acknowledging that research evidence is often not considered in decision-making, the PS said: “There’s an enormous gap between what we know and what we do… Even the most high quality research evidence doesn’t make sense to policymakers unless it is first objectively converted to specific clear policy options… Using research evidence to inform policy and practice needs to move from being a mere discussion to reality.”

The PS called on the conference to spearhead the formation of a knowledge-sharing platform in the health sector that would enable increased deliberation and consideration of research evidence in decision-making within the Ministry. He further called on the conference to chart a clear direction for the development of a national as well as county-specific health research agenda.

The annual conference, which was the third in the last three years, saw delegates ranging from the county and national government, development agencies and programme implementing organizations convene in Nairobi to share experiences and insights on how to improve health in Africa. Researchers from various institutions shared engaging presentations on new research on various issues, translating evidence to policy, and evaluating implementation programmes, among others. Policymakers on the other hand shared current challenges experienced in utilising evidence for decision-making at both the national and county levels.

Science cafés ‘fire up’ conference deliberations

In a break from the last two conferences, this year’s conference featured three science cafés on priority health issues that policymakers are grappling with, namely:

  • Tackling maternal and newborn mortality at national and county levels
  • Halting the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Kenya
  • Policy responses to problems associated with ‘recreational’ consumption of illicit brews and substances such as khat (miraa)

The science cafés provided a platform for critical deliberative discussions on the ways in which research evidence can be used to address the priority health policy issues that policymakers are grappling with. Forum participants overwhelmingly applauded the café model as an engaging policy dialogue mechanism, and called for more similar forums in future to deliberate other urgent health policy issues in the country. The science café sessions are part of the interventions of the SECURE Health programme, and the programme used the research-to-policy conference to test its pioneer cafés and gather feedback for informing the organization of future cafés.

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Right: Dr. Rose Oronje (Communications and Policy Engagement Manager, AFIDEP) makes a presentation on the SECURE Health programme during the conference.

Left: Dr. Eliya Zulu (Executive Director, AFIDEP) speaks during a panel discussion discussing the recommendations from the conference.

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Left: Prof Nelson Sewankambo (College of Health Sciences, Makerere University) presents on uptake and utilisation of health research. Right: Hon. Binty Omar, County Executive Committee (Health) member, Mombasa County, delves into the challenges faced at the county level.

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Left: Delegates follow conference proceedings. Right: Debate hots up during a science café on the research gaps in tackling maternal and newborn mortality at the national and county levels.

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