THE National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) has underscored the need to harmonize research and policy making, to ensure the country reaps maximum benefits from various scientific studies.
NIMR Director General Dr Mwele Malecela, noted in Dar es Salaam that getting research to influence policy making was among the challenges the research institute was working hard to address.
Dr Malecela noted this in her presentation showcasing the Tanzanian experience to representatives from West and Southern Africa countries, the NEPAD Agency and West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) who are on a study visit under the Council on Health Research and Development (COHRED).
The countries include Botswana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zambia. Dr Malecela noted that translating research into policy is one area they are grappling with, noting that NIMR continues using bulletins, media and lobbying.
"Getting the stakeholders involved to the end of the research is a big challenge we're facing despite political will and governments commitment on research. It improves the situation a little but it is not enough," she explained. She added that there is a need to develop a clear mechanism that can help push to have research influence policy making.
"This is a challenge not only for Tanzania alone, but we can all work together to address," she explained noting that the key is to engage policy makers from the onset of the research to the end. Dr Malecela explained over the years NIMR has evolved in such that priority areas for research are set through engaging different stakeholders including communities and vulnerable groups to get information before setting the priorities.
"The idea is to ensure that the priority areas for research address the needs of the public," she explained. NIMR is also gearing up for mass production of its newly developed natural/herbal based medicine, with the launch of a factory later in this year. Dr Malecela noted that once the factory is in operation, the amount of money from selling the natural products can help keep run the operation and research activities of the Institute.
"It is important for the government to look at these institutions as income generating as well as providing services. Once in operation, the government subside will decrease because the idea in the long run is to decrease dependence on government," she explained.
Some of the herbal medicine includes Hepacure for treatment of herbal disorders, Persivin for treatment of prostate hypertrophy in men, Persican for treatment of diabetes, Mundex for treatment of erectile dysfunction in men and Nimrex for treatment of chests, cold and cough.
She explained that NIMR being a public institution, they are considering starting a foundation that will be focused on selling products innovated by the institution. This she explained will protect the credibility of the research institute. COHRED Programme Manager Dr Katy Douglas is working with Tanzania, Senegal and Mozambique focusing on various aspects of strengthening the governance of research for health, in areas such as priority settings and establishing a web based management systems where policy makers can easily get access.
Dr Douglas said Tanzania is advanced and has something that very few countries have, which is president commitment in research and working well with other sectors. "This is one of few countries with president's support for research and many countries would want to learn from the Tanzania experience. Research and Innovation is the key driver to development anywhere in the world," she explained.