A former Director of Health Systems at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa, Dr Delanyo Dovlo, has called for the establishment of a national research strategy, to guide research for the health sector.
According to him, "an overarching research strategy" was critical to guide how research priorities are generated as well as direct how funds are mobilised and utilised to efficiently address health needs of the populace."
The retired Public Health Physician, was speaking at the opening of a three-day national health dissemination symposium, in Accra yesterday.
The participants at the event, which was organised on the theme: "Speeding up progress towards achieving SDG 3 with the new knowledge, innovation and partnerships", discussed research that had the potential of influencing policy, programming and implementation for acceleration towards attaining SDG 3.
It was organised by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS), with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and brought together about 200 researchers, policy makers, development partners and health professionals.
Dr Dovlo said that research based on "opportunistic external grants" was a bane to advancing quality health delivery in the country, as it mostly served the interest of sponsors to the detriment of national health priorities.
He said "we need a national health research development strategy focused on local innovation and problem solving. A major part of our research efforts should focus on problem solving approaches and research incentives.
Policy and strategies for research should be framed around burning problems that constrain us from attaining universal health coverage (UHC)," Dr Dovlo stressed.
He suggested that a percentage of taxes on products like alcohol, sugar and tobacco be allotted to health research with premiums placed on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and budgetary allocations of the MOH and GHS for research.
Dr Dovlo said "we should communicate research issues and results fluently, not just disseminate, so that all stakeholders can see reasonably direct and visible benefits from research."
Director General of the GHS, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, in corroborating the relevance of research in achieving desired health outcomes, charged all District and Regional health directorates to allocate at least five per cent of their budget to research.
He said there were gaps in health service delivery in the country, accounting for issues like the no-bed syndrome, misappropriation of funds, weak health structures among others, and pledged that the GHS "would document all research work to readily inform decision making."
Mr. Lawrence Odartey Lawson, Head of Allied Health Training Institutions at the MOH, described the theme for the symposium as apt and closely linked with recommendations made at this year's Annual Health Summit to achieve UHC.
He assured the ministry's commitment to utilising evidence generated from health research and health information for decision making at all levels "for a better health and well being of all Ghanaians."
Janean Davis, Director, Health Office, USAID, asked that Ghana moved away from rhetoric to practical application of evidences gathered from health research.
"Applying rigorous data to our programming is critical to ensure that we are improving upon pat lessons learnt, using our funding wisely and most importantly, saving the most lives possible," she said.