New conference aims to bridge gap between researchers and policy makers in Rwanda

Seventeen years: This is how long it typically takes for a scientifically tested intervention to be integrated into standard practice, according to experts. But can this gap between research and policy be closed? Health sector stakeholders in Rwanda are trying to do just that.

On Friday August 24th, the Rwandan Ministry of Health, the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc. (CHAI), academic institutions, and other partners hosted the first national Health Research and Policy Day in Kigali. This event was designed to bring researchers and policy makers together to help bridge knowledge and information gaps through scientific presentations and policy-oriented panel discussions. These conversations highlighted findings from recent scientific studies conducted mainly in Rwanda with an eye towards using the empirical results to develop policies that promote the health of Rwandans.

Christine Ashimwe, a student at the University of Global Health Equity, presented her work on venous thromboembolism (when a blood clot forms within a vein).

The Health Research and Policy Day included plenary speeches by the Honorable Patrick Ndimubanzi, the Minister of State for Health in charge of Public Health and Primary Healthcare, Professor Jeanine U. Condo, Director General, RBC, and Elizabeth McCarthy, Senior Director, Applied Analytics Team, CHAI. Throughout the day, 16 oral presentations were given by Rwandan and invited international researchers within the conference sub-themes of infectious diseases, maternal and child health, non-communicable diseases, and health systems quality improvement. These sessions were moderated by leaders from the ministry of health and RBC who oversee the respective government programs. Forty-one posters were also presented, and graduate students from Rwandan academic institutions took part in a thesis presentation competition.

The event brought policy makers and researchers together and the speakers had messages for both groups. Professor Condo reminded the audience that “saving lives is not all about giving drugs and it’s not only meeting the patient. It’s beyond that. It’s how we can put the academic brain into the way we work.”

CHAI’s Elizabeth McCarthy delivered the key note address and called on researchers to “measure your success by the increase in evidence-based decisions made, and the policy and program actions taken as a result of research findings rather than in publications and projects completed.”

Bridging the gap between research and policy requires strong building materials, a solid ideological foundation, and a well drafted blueprint. This conference served as a step towards constructing the infrastructure necessary to apply the evidence produced through research studies to create scientifically-informed health policies.

The organizers of the event came from the Rwandan Ministry of Health, the RBC, CHAI, the University of Rwanda, Partners in Health, and Management Sciences for Health.

This event emerged from CHAI’s partnership with the government of Rwanda to implement the Demand-Driven Evaluations for Decisions (3DE) program. The 3DE program is funded by the UK Department for International Development to support ministries of health with evidence-based decision-making by using rigorous evaluations in a demand-driven, rapid, and efficient way.

More information about the conference is available here: http://rwandaevidenceforhealth.rw/