Linking research to policy: West Africa workshop highlights use of evidence to improve maternal and child health

March 17, 2016
Dr Stanislas Kambou, Director of Research, WAHO; Laurent Assogba, Assistant Director General, WAHO; Pape Amadou Diack, Director General, Ministry of Health, Senegal; Nathalie O’Neil, Head of Aid, Canadian Embassy Senegal; Sharmila Mhatre, Program Leader, Maternal and Child Health, IDRC.

Eighty people—researchers, policymakers, donors, and experts—attended a workshop to discuss the current situation and emerging evidence on maternal and child health in West Africa. Held in Dakar, Senegal from February 18-20, 2016, the workshop provided a unique platform for researchers working on maternal and child health to engage with government policymakers from several West African countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal. The workshop concluded with a call for greater uptake of research evidence into policies and practices in the region.

The workshop also discussed a number of thematic areas with a focus on West Africa. The areas included: inclusion of gender and equity in maternal, newborn, and child health services; conducive and limiting health system factors to improving mother, newborn, and child health; and situational analysis of knowledge transfer for mother, newborn, and child health.

The West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), a specialised agency of Economic Community of West African States, organized the workshop. WAHO is working with seven implementation research teams (IRTs) in West Africa to catalyze the use of evidence in national and regional maternal and child health policies. WAHO’s knowledge of health systems and reach of key stakeholders in the region fosters greater collaboration between researchers and policymakers, and complements the IRTs' efforts to integrate evidence into policies on improving maternal and child health.

The workshop, along with funding provided to WAHO and the IRTs, is part of the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA) initiative. IMCHA is a seven-year (2014-2020), $CA36 million multi-donor partnership funded by Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and IDRC.

Improving maternal and child health is a significant challenge for many countries in West Africa. According to a World Health Organization report, Sierra Leone, Mali, and Nigeria, are among countries with the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Canada’s support through the IMCHA initiative aims to address these critical challenges.

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