Rwanda: Experts Explore Strategies for Building Ecosystem Responsive to Rwanda's Unique Health Needs

Policymakers, researchers, healthcare professionals, and stakeholders, converged at Kigali Convention Centre to formulate a combined advancement in modelling the future of healthcare in Rwanda during the third annual health research and policy conference that runs from May 20-21.

The conference themed, "Advancing Research for a Healthy Rwanda" intends to explore and inaugurate strategies for building a connected ecosystem that is responsive to the unique health needs of Rwanda, according to the organisers.

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The primary objectives of the third health research and policy symposium are linking the health research community in Rwanda, promoting grassroots research, discussing the contribution and implementation of research in policy making and promoting and evaluating innovative approaches for quality healthcare.

Prof. Claude Mambo Muvunyi, the Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), noted that by organizing various perspectives, "we aim to promote and evaluate innovative approaches for achieving quality healthcare outcomes tailored to Rwanda's specific health needs."

While noteworthy improvements have been achieved, he said, there remains substantial work ahead, stressing the importance of increasing investments in research and development to discover novel tools and strategies.

"Closing the gap between pioneering research and its practical implementation within communities is essential for success, and this conference serves as a crucial platform for fostering partnerships toward this objective," Muvunyi stressed.

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He urged participants to seize the opportunity to exchange knowledge, forge partnerships, and inspire action towards building a healthier and more prosperous Rwanda. During the symposium, the national health research agenda, and the national strategic plan for research, innovation and data science were launched, in addition to additional initiatives focused on enhancing human resources capabilities in research and development (R&D).

The national health research agenda is an inclusive proposal designed to guide and prioritize health research activities in alignment with the nation's health-related needs.

According to Dr Eric Remera, the manager of the division in charge of research, innovation and data sciences at Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), identifying the transformative potential of research innovation and data science, the national strategic plan for research, innovation and data science aims to leverage advancements and outline strategic approaches to harness research, innovation and data science for improving healthcare outcomes and decision-making.

Dr Brian Chirombo, the World Health Organization (WHO) country representative, highlighted the organization's role in crafting health policies that not only cross national borders but also integrate global health outlooks.

Endorsed by the WHO, evidence-informed decision-making is more than a methodology; it's a pledge to healthcare excellence, he noted.

"Health policy formulation must be reinforced by the best and latest available evidence and ensuring that public health policy is informed by research is essential for the effective execution of health initiatives aimed at enhancing the health of communities," he stated.

Chirombo added that evidence-informed decision-making involves the identification, evaluation, and application of the best evidence, considering factors like context, public sentiment, equity, implementation, feasibility, cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and societal acceptance, to inform the development of effective and impactful health policies.

WHO is collaborating with University of Rwanda to establish the country's first WHO Collaborating Center on Data and Health Information.

Chirombo noted that the United Nations' health agency is working with other partners to support Rwanda's Ministry of Health in developing the national health research agenda to support evidence-based planning and decision-making to attain the desired health outcomes.

The research agenda will provide national research priorities to guide researchers, policymakers, health programme implementers, academic institutions, health development partners, and other stakeholders, to ensure that research carried out in the country informs programming and assists the country in its pursuit of the achievement of the health-related targets of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and Rwanda Vision 2050.

The health research and policy symposium is an initiative launched in 2018 to contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of all Rwandans. It is an annual gathering of different stakeholders in the health sector to share and discuss evidence-based policy making and practices.

The second edition was organized in May 2022.

Throughout the symposium, dissimilar sessions delved into various health-related topics, including infectious diseases, chronic diseases, mental health, pandemic preparedness, data science, clinical trials, and maternal and child health.

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