The Strengthening Capacity to Use Research Evidence in Health Policy (SECURE Health) programme seeks to optimise individual and institutional capacity in accessing and utilising health research evidence in decision-making in Kenya and Malawi. Not much is known on what works and what doesn’t in strengthening the capacity of policymakers and their institutions to use research evidence, and so the SECURE Health programme generates important information to fill this knowledge gap. Lessons from Kenya and Malawi are shared through annual platforms of the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC) in order to share learning with other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. SECURE Health is a three-year programme running from November 2013 to November 2016.
1. Sustained advocacy with top officials in MoH and Parliament in Kenya, Malawi and regionally
Sustained advocacy with top officials in MoH (including Ministers of Health, Principal Secretaries, Directors of Health or Medical Services, and Heads of Departments/Directorates) and Parliament (including Speakers and Clerks of Parliament, and Heads of Departments) has aimed at strengthening leadership for research use, increasing priority and demand for research, and generating commitments and actions to address institutional bottlenecks to research use.
The institutional bottlenecks include lacking or non-functional libraries, lacking or unreliable Internet access, lacking access to online scientific journals and databases, and generally a lacking culture of evidence use.
2. Development of the national health research agenda in Kenya and review of the impact of the national health agenda in Malawi
While Malawi has a clearly defined health research agenda, Kenya doesn’t have one, yet we believe this is critical for providing direction on the health research that the MoH needs to make decisions, as well as providing the government’s commitment and direction on funding and capacity building for research generation and translation.
As part of strengthening institutional capacity for increased evidence use, we are developing a Research-for-Health Policy Framework for Kenya, which included health research priorities, and funding and legal framework for health generation and translation in the country.
In Malawi, we have reviewed the impact of the current national health research agenda and provided important lessons and recommendations to inform the revision of the agenda for more effectiveness.
3. Development of evidence-informed policymaking guidelines for MoH and Parliament in Kenya and Malawi
As part of strengthening institutional capacity for increased evidence use, we are development institutional guidelines for evidence use in policymaking/decision-making for the MoH and Parliament in Kenya and Malawi. We are working with each institution to develop a customized guideline that responds to its needs.
4. Hosting bi-annual Science-Policy Cafés and supporting annual scientific conferences to facilitate exchange of information and relationship building among researchers and policymakers
Relationships and linkages between researchers and policymakers is one of the key facilitators of evidence use. We host Science-Policy cafés once every 6months in Kenya and Malawi. The cafés provide a platform for the deliberation of evidence on urgent health policy issue in each county as well as forging of relationships between policymakers and researchers.
Each café is organized together with the MoH in each country. The MoH identifies the urgent policy issue they need evidence on, whereas the consortium identifies a panel of experts to present and lead in the discussion of evidence for tackling the issue.
We also support and participate in annual scientific conferences in each country where emerging evidence is deliberated. The conferences are attended by researchers and policymakers.
1. Evidence-Informed Policy-Making Training Programme
We have developed and are implementing a comprehensive Evidence-Informed Policymaking (EIPM) training programme for technical staff in the MoH and Parliament.
The EIPM training curriculum covers five main modules, including Foundation of Policymaking, Accessing, Appraising, Synthesizing and Applying Evidence.
The delivery of the training programme involves one 5-day workshop and a one-year follow-up mentorship and on-the-job support for each of the trained staff.
In 2015, we conducted four training workshops in the two countries. Through these workshops, 76 technocrats were trained on EIPM, 40 in Kenya and 36 in Malawi (see the EIPM training infographic). Following the initial training in 2015, we have continued to provide on-the-job support and mentorship for each of the trained MoH and parliament staff.
2. Internship Programme for Kenya and Malawi Parliamentary staff at the UK Parliament
For parliamentary staff in Kenya and Malawi, the programme has involved an internship in addition to the training programme above. The internship programme involves one-month in the UK parliament working closely with UK POST, and a 9-month remote mentorship by UK staff for the interns.
1. Baseline and endline surveys
To enable learning the programme has conducted a baseline survey at the beginning and the data collected will be compared with data from an endline survey to be conducted at the end of programme implementation. The baseline survey gathered information on individual and institutional status, needs and gaps in relation to evidence use in the health sector for each country.
2. Policy analysis studies
The programme is conducting policy analysis studies of actual policy development processes to assess the role of evidence in the decisions made in these processes. This component involves a retrospective study tracking past policy development processes to assess role of evidence (baseline) and a prospective policy analysis study to assess role of evidence on ongoing policy development processes. These studies are being implemented with the MoH in each country.