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Summary

In 2012, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, ThinkWell aimed to strengthen the use of health policy and systems research (HPSR) in the policymaking process—with a geographic focus on sub-Saharan Africa. First, we mapped the sub-Saharan African institutions and networks engaged in health policy and systems research, analyzed their capacities, and identified gaps and opportunities. We then convened key partners, including health policy and systems researchers, government stakeholders, and development partners, for a three-day consultative meeting at the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, Italy. During the meeting, we facilitated a discussion on how to create a sub-Saharan African network that promotes health policy and systems research for policymaking purposes. Finally, we presented an investment case to the Rockefeller Foundation.

Challenges

The health policy and systems research landscape in sub-Saharan Africa has changed dramatically in recent decades. There are a growing number of African institutions engaged in HPSR. In addition, government bodies increasingly facilitate high-level discussions on health systems and policy issues. These institutions and initiatives have enriched the evidence-base for health systems reforms and have fostered dialogue and debate on health policy issues in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the progress, there is poor integration and under-use of HPSR in policymaking processes. In addition, sub-Saharan African capacity for health system and policy research is low.

Approach

ThinkWell completed a desk review and a landscaping analysis to identify African institutions that are actively engaged in HPSR. We then organized a three-day consultative meeting at the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, Italy to present our findings and to guide discussions on how to improve health policy and systems research. The meeting’s aim was to create a model for a network of sub-Saharan African health systems and policy research institutions to boost knowledge creation for policy uptake. During the meeting, we arrived at a vision for a network of sub-Saharan African institutions and networks that would strengthen the link between the HPSR community and policymakers.

Results

Based on our research and the consultative meeting, we developed a model for a sub-Saharan African network for HPSR. The model included a mechanism to strengthen linkages between policymakers, media, civil society, and researchers. The model also facilitated knowledge translation for policymaking purposes. We presented our model, recommendations, and an investment case for the Rockefeller Foundation to support the development of a sub-Saharan African network for HPSR.

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