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“For far too long, people who implement programs in the developing world have been relegated to the fringes of research processes directly related to their work.”
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Prioritize Building Research Skills to Address Equity

By Naomi Fedna | Friday, December 21, 2018

Prioritize Research Skills to Address Equity

After delivering a 90-minute presentation, Professor Yemane Berhane of the Addis Continental Institute of Public Health (ACIPH) closed his lecture with a reminder: “I can present all day on study protocols, but these workshops are not designed for me to lecture all day. They are meant to protect your time, to give you the opportunity to dedicate yourself solely to developing your research.”

With that, the intrepid participants of the Research Capacity Building (RCB) course turned to their data-filled spreadsheets, concept notes, and peer-reviewed literature as part of an effort to address underrepresentation in high-impact medical journals.

The RCB course helps selected implementers of Ethiopia’s National Quality Strategy from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) to build their implementation science and operational research skills. While studying topics ranging from data quality to patient-centered care, participants’ research examines maternal and neonatal health quality improvement efforts across Ethiopia.

Dec 21 blog photo 2 (edited)

Participants listen intently to Professor Alemayehu deliver a presentation on sample size and sampling. 

Every two months, participants are required to attend workshops facilitated by professors from the ACIPH and Addis Ababa University. Each workshop, ranging anywhere between three and six days, focuses on the essential components of research. Over the course of 10 months, six writing teams will work collaboratively with expert mentors to develop a manuscript to submit to a peer-reviewed journal.

Why are these participants, mentors, facilitators, and institutions dedicating months of time, energy, and resources to focus on research? The course is part of IHI’s effort to attain equity by not only tackling outcomes but also by addressing processes. For far too long, people who implement programs in the developing world have been relegated to the fringes of research processes directly related to their work. Leaving implementers out of researcher roles is not only a missed opportunity for capacity building, but also often decreases the richness of the research. With only 6.5 percent of the articles in the world’s leading medical journals written by authors from 90 percent of the world’s population, this course is a way to help address this gap.

Learning Research Fundamentals

The first workshop focused on problem identification, developing study protocols, and defining the role of each team member. Over the course of three days, ACIPH Professors Yemane Berhane and Ayele Zewdie presented on the necessity of research for improving health systems, the process of defining a problem statement and research question, and components of a research protocol and literature search. Active work periods during the workshop allowed participants time to develop their concept note drafts. On the final day, participants presented their concept notes and received feedback from the facilitators, their mentors, and their peers.

Between the first and second workshops, the writing teams consulted with their mentors about how to improve their concept notes and received guidance around developing a proposal. The second workshop in October began with participants reporting out on the progress they had made since their last convening. The facilitators, ACIPH Professors Yemane Berhane and Alemayehu Worku, taught the group about choosing a study design, sample size and sampling, research ethics, and building a co-authorship team. This six-day workshop allotted a significant amount of time for participants to develop their study design, sample size, data analysis plan, and action plans.

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RCB participants work on refining their concept notes.

The writing teams are currently finalizing their study protocol, continuing their literature review process, and producing “clean” data sets. By the third workshop in January of 2019, participants should be fully prepared to analyze their organized data. By their fourth workshop in March of 2019, the writing teams will have drafted a manuscript that evaluates key aspects of providing high-quality maternal and neonatal care. The manuscript will represent months of inquiry, commitment, and intellectual labor.

In its inaugural year, the RCB course has galvanized a group of individuals who are passionate about using data and research to improve the current state of their health system.

Naomi Fedna is a Project Coordinator for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

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