Journal supplement features 10 years of West African health systems research

July 20, 2017

Stephan Gladieu / World Bank

In the wake of the devastating Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, increased attention has been paid to West Africa’s poorly functioning health systems. This includes how their weaknesses compounded the emergency and complicated the response to the health crisis.

A new supplement published on July 13, 2017 in BioMed Central’s Health Research Policy and Systems journal explores the reasons behind these shortcomings. The journal was launched during the Partners Forum of the West African Annual Health Assembly, which brings together ministers of health and development partners active in the 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The supplement presents findings from a series of research and capacity development projects funded by IDRC. From Senegal to Nigeria, the collection of 10 articles offers a fresh perspective on many health system issues. The articles feature the knowledge and experiences of the region’s actors, but they also present evidence that highlights the barriers to sustainable innovation and change. People and research: improved health systems for West Africans by West Africans is a direct output of IDRC’s work to strengthen the research environment in the region, in close collaboration with the West African Health Organization (WAHO), for nearly a decade.

West Africa has some of the lowest development indicators in the world. The 2015 World Health Organization’s Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015 confirmed that West and Central Africa are home to 14 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world.

A key theme in the BioMed Central supplement is that context matters. Promising innovations developed in one country will not necessarily perform well in another. Several authors also identify the critical need to strengthen collaboration across expert institutions and individuals to overcome the existing fragmentation of expertise, knowledge, and actors.

As this journal supplement attests, West Africa is home to a wealth of experienced and committed researchers. If effectively supported, they can work with decision-makers to meaningfully and effectively improve health outcomes in the region and contribute to making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality. The resulting changes can strengthen the region’s health systems to deliver quality health services and prevent and manage future health crises such as the Ebola virus outbreak.

Read the People and research: improved health systems for West Africans by West Africans supplement published in BioMed Central.