By GRACE AUDU, Abuja
A 3-day workshop aimed at discussing the use of research findings in decision making in Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH), ended in Abuja recently, with the recommendation that there should be interface between researchers and policy makers to ensure research addresses priority gaps and engender proper policy making guidance.
The stakeholders, meeting, organized by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health in partnership with the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) and other health sector agencies, also stressed the need for appropriate linkages with the National Health Research Committee and program departments to agree on focus and need before setting research priorities for the country.
Held at Rockview Royale Hotel, Wuse II Abuja, from 24th to 26th September, 2019, it was the Second Edition of Nigeria Research Days for Maternal Newborn and Child Health, with the theme: “Integration of Mental Health into Reproductive and Community Health: Community Mobilisation and Engagement.”
It was also aimed at sharing the research findings from the three IMCHA projects in Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health plus Nutrition (MNCAH+N) in Nigeria; and to, as well as to enhance the capacity of stakeholders to use the regional evidence-based policy making guidance.
A communiques issued at the end of the workshop further called on Researchers to begin to engage parliamentarians and policy makers at both National and sub-national levels for buy-in into researches for possible policy change and implementation.
The workshop attracted 79 participants, including the representative of Nigeria’s Minister of Health; the representative of the Director-General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO); officers from the Federal Ministry of Health (Departments of Family Health, Planning Research and Statistics & Public Health); Federal line Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals including the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and the National Population Commission (NPopC).
There were also state representatives, made up of Implementation Research Teams from Oyo, Edo and Bauchi states; the Academia, Professional Associations (PAN, NISONM, SOGON, NANMN, SOFPON, APN, NISPID); Development Partners (UNICEF, CHAI, JHPIEGO), NGOs (PSN Africa, FOMWAN); Research Groups (NETBRECSIN, WHARC) as well as other key stakeholders in MNCH.
The meeting was declared open by Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire (who was represented by the Director, Family Health Department, Dr Adebimpe Adebiyi mni), who welcomed participants and expressed optimism in the output of the meeting.
Director-General of WAHO, Professor Stanley Okolo, who was represented by Professor Issiaka Sombie, in his own remarks, reiterated his commitment to provide support to any project designed to impact positively on the lives of women and children in the West African sub-region
The communique also observed that the list of “Research Priorities” compiled by the National Health Research Committee has not properly captured some key MNCH issues, and that some policies are not informed by research, while many researches are not designed to address existing policy needs.
While regretting that there was currently no functional Central Medical Library in Nigeria as the one in Lagos is dilapidated, the participants also observed that there was weak capacity of policy makers on the use of evidence for policy making because of the disconnect between researchers and policy makers.
They further observed that evidence from the Scaling up care for perinatal depression for improved maternal and infant health (SPECTRA) implemented in 11 LGAs of Oyo State shows that capacity of primary health care providers can be built to deliver evidence based mental health care. “Evidence also shows that Community engagement and participation still remains the bedrock for better outcome in MNCH projects as demonstrated in the resultant zero maternal death in Etsako east LGA and Esan South east in Edo and improved spousal communication on MNCH, Toro LGA, Bauchi. However, community structures are yet to be fully incorporated in the design and implementation of other projects.”
Describing community health fund as a viable option to address the finance gap in access to quality service delivery, the workshop observed that there is a need to develop an implementation plan for the mental health policy which will incorporate mental health into MNCH.
Other recommendations by the workshop that there should be the existing MNCH Research Days, should be strengthened.
It urged the Ministries of Health to begin to commission researches that will directly address policy needs and that future MNCH Research Day meetings should be broadened to include parliamentarians
The capacity of researchers and users should be built on the areas of grantsmanship and the use of research evidence.
The organisation of specific days dedicated to research on MNCH in Nigeria; was one the main recommendations from the situation analysis on Knowledge Transfer and evidence use carry out by WAHO as part of Moving maternal newborn and child health Evidence into Policy in West Africa (MEP) in 2015. This request tried to bring all stakeholders together in a platform to foster collaboration between researchers and decision-makers, to share the results of ongoing research and to prepare the use of these results in decision-making and practices.
Stakeholders based, the first edition held from 11 to 13 July 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria on the feasibility study to ensure ownership of this platform. The final communique of the first edition recommended that the Nigeria Research Days for MNCH should be organised annually under the leadership of Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health. As the first edition, the actual conference will be organise for 3 days with about 50 participants.