By Dr Virgil LOKOSSOU and Pr Issiaka SOMBIE
Since November 2014, the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) has been implementing a Regional Project tagged “Moving Maternal Newborn and Child Health Evidence into Policy in West Africa.” The project is funded by the International Development Research Centre , the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the ECOWAS Commission.
A situation analysis of knowledge translation and use of evidence in West Africa integrating gender and equity issues as well as conducive and limiting factors of health systems was conducted in 6 countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal) during the second half of 2015. The Validation Workshop on the Situation Analysis which gathered together eighty stakeholders from ECOWAS Member States and Canada, was held in Dakar from 18 to 20 February 2016. Participants included researchers, policy makers, technical and financial partners, professional associations and civil society organizations.
A situation analysis during a regional workshop
The workshop conducted a critical review of the findings of the situation analysis as well as the Initiative-funded Projects. Furthermore, experiences were shared as regards the use of knowledge translation platforms in the project countries. Proposals were made towards integrating gender and equity and health system factors in the Initiative-funded Projects as well as improving knowledge translation and use of evidence in maternal, newborn and child health in West Africa.
Key lessons from the workshop
Participants identified lessons to guide development of an intervention:
1) Developing policy documents, plans, standards and protocols for mother, newborn and child health in the project countries always requires the involvement of stakeholders including researchers. However, the consideration of evidence while developing such components is not noticeable.
2) Stakeholders’ capacities in information technology, research and policy development process was quite good but the capacity to use evidence in the formulation and implementation of policy documents, plans and standards and care protocols was low ;
3) Therefore, there is a need to strengthen some projects funded by the Initiative to that they better take into consideration issues of equity, gender and context.
4) There are some opportunities as regards the conduct of research, knowledge translation and use of evidence. These are found in programmes of the United Nations system, ECOWAS Gender Development Centre, existing and functional platforms for knowledge translation such as the Community of Practice Health Service Delivery, the Nigerian Branch of Cochrane and on websites of international organizations and Research Teams.
5) Many areas were identified for capacity building, dialogue among the various stakeholders and support for the use of evidence. These areas include planning times, development or review of care policy documents, of care plans, standards and protocols, and during meetings of steering committees on research projects and national or regional meetings on the Initiative.
6) Laws and regulations of Departments or Institutions requiring the use of evidence in decision-making and developing guides for the use of evidence should be taken into account in the future.
The next steps for WAHO will be to develop and implement a capacity building intervention to create an enabling environment for knowledge sharing and the use of evidence taking into account the findings of the current situation analysis. This intervention needs to mobilize and engage all existing opportunities at the country and regional levels. This mobilization should be made through a gradual approach to work to improve the sustainability of activities beyond the Initiative. Finally WAHO intends to share its experience with the international community both during international meetings and conference and regularly within the CoP Health Service Delivery platforms.