Malawi’s Ministry of Health endorses Health Research Technical Working Group as a Strategy to Strengthen Evidence use in institutional strictures.
25 August 2022
Author: Dr Leyla Abdullahi & Christopher Kaudzu

Evidence is essential in enhancing policy, programme and practice for decisions that improve development outcomes. However, the evidence doesn’t often play this role in decision-making, primarily because of limited or non-existent capacity among decision-makers in evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM). The Ministry of Health (MoH) in Malawi has implemented various efforts to strengthen the capacity for increased and sustained use of evidence since 2011. These include the establishment of the Malawi Knowledge Translation Platform in 2011; the Health Research Agenda 2011–2016 development; training technical staff in EIDM in 2015 and 2016; formulation and training of research focal persons in 2021; EIDM guidelines/checklists development; Health Research Strategic Plan (HRSP) 2021–2030 development; and the establishment of the Health Research Sub-Technical Working Group (STWG).

On 25 August 2022, the Ministry of Health launched the Health Research STWG and HRSP 2021–2030. The Research Department in the MoH has been working with multiple partners to build capacity in the health research sector through the Heightening Institutional Capacity for Government Use of Health Research (HIGH-Res) project.  The African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) implemented (High-Res) project in collaboration with the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Centre (MLW) and Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS) for three years. The project aimed to strengthen institutional capacity for evidence use in the health sector – it has also been implemented in Kenya and Uganda.

According to  AFIDEP’s Executive Director, Dr Eliya Zulu, one of AFIDEP’s key focus areas is strengthening institutional and individual capacity for demand and use of evidence and promoting interaction between researchers and policymakers. Further, he reiterated that;

“Weak institutional capacity to source, synthesise and appraise evidence is among the factors that hinder evidence use in decision-making. In response to this challenge, HIGH-Res implemented innovative and politically responsive interventions to strengthen institutional capacity for the use of research in policy and programmes”.

The project achieved several EIDM capacity-building milestones during its lifespan, like developing evidence tools, supporting HRSP development, and forming sub-technical working groups.

The Deputy Minister of Health, Honourable Enoch Phale MP, presided over the event and officially launched the Health Research STWG and HRSP. Honourable Phale acknowledged AFIDEP’s work in building institutional and individual capacities, SECURE Health project as an example. The Deputy Minister said the project, which he is an alumnus of, helps him make evidence-informed decisions, especially for projects and programmes.

Honourable Phale indicated that this was the ministry’s first research-focused strategic plan which he said would guide decision-making in aspects such as resource mobilisation and investment, human health resources,  medicines and medical supplies mobilisation and emerging diseases and emergencies.STWG will influence the Strategic Plan to ensure it is translated into action. They will provide oversight on implementing the strategy at all levels and, as such, help the government build a resilient healthcare system.

The STWG  also officially endorsed the developed evidence checklists for researchers at the same event. Further, the sTWG created two sets of evidence checklists within the HIGH-Res project—one for senior management, the other for sTWGs, divisions and departments.

The checklists will promote and enhance evidence’s systematic use and consideration in MoH’s decision-making processes. Ultimately improving service delivery and the country’s health outcomes.

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