Health systems in sub-Saharan Africa generally remain weak, and are characterized by operational and management inefficiency, poor quality of health services, and low capacity for planning, budgeting, and management. There is need to improve management and planning capacities at all health system levels. Changing demographics in Africa come with challenges that can only be tackled by building resilient health systems that can be relied upon to address them. Building such health systems requires human resources with the capacity to conduct research and use rigorous evidence to develop and implement health policy and programs.
Health systems research (HSR) is an evolving field of study, but has generally been defined as a field of study that strives to identify the best frameworks (approaches) to help strengthen health systems or better understand the context in which they operate. HSR helps to understand how health care services are financed, organized, and delivered. HSR answers questions of how best health systems can contribute to broader health and social goals. The terms Health Systems Research (HSR) and Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR) have been used interchangeably in most circles ; for the purposes of this report, the term Health Systems Research will be used.
In 2011, the Africa Hub under the HEALTH Alliance conducted an assessment of existing capacities at the Schools of Public Health (SPHs) that form the Alliance (www.halliance.org) to teach, conduct and communicate HSR evidence to inform health policy and programming. Using the same assessment, policy makers were also evaluated on their capacity to search as well as use evidence in decision making.
Key among the findings were: lack of a standardized curriculum for HSR across the SPHs in the region, limited capacities and skills among faculty and researchers to conduct HSR, weak linkages and engagement with Ministries of Health and policy makers, limited skills to communicate evidence on one hand, and limited capacity to search and use research evidence by decision makers on the other.
As part of the objective of developing capacity for HSR in East and Central Africa, and as a response to the above challenges, the Africa Hub has developed this curriculum for a regional short course in HSR. This short course will provide a platform to, besides gaining skills and expertise in HSR, interact with facilitators who are the region's leading HSR experts and practitioners, provide exposure to different health-systems related organizations, and facilitate discussions with participants from across the region.