The WHO Scientific Resource Group on Equity Analysis and Research together with the Global Forum for Health Research and People’s Health Movement announce a call for research proposals from civil society organizations (CSOs) on the theme:
‘Advancing health equity through research and practice – identifying what works to reduce health inequities’.
CSOs interested in evaluating the interventions they implemented and their impacts both on health outcomes and on health equity are invited to submit research proposals. The interventions (including policies, programmes, etc) to be evaluated need to address social, economic and political determinants of health. Submission of proposals dealing with interventions and research projects already in progress is strongly encouraged.
Published research oriented toward reducing health inequity has until recently been devoted more to explaining health inequities than to designing and evaluating policy interventions to reduce inequities. Research is needed to evaluate the health equity impact of policy and actions, whether in the health sector or in other sectors. One of the three top level recommendations by the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH) is to continue research, monitoring and evaluation, with a focus on what interventions work to reduce health inequities. The recent WHO Task Force Report on “Priorities for research on equity and health”, called for a third wave in global health research, that explicitly links broader social, political, and economic determinants with improvements in equity in health, and emphasized the need for innovative research designs for evaluating policy and program interventions to reduce health inequities.
Local level solutions and those addressing a broad range of social determinants are often those with the greatest innovation and impact. For example, policies and projects addressing issues such as provision of education, water and sanitation, and farming technologies or the empowerment of disadvantaged groups have significant potential consequences for health and health equity. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) often lead the development and implementation of such interventions that lead to concrete improvements in real life settings, and yet CSOs don’t always have the opportunity to document or evaluate interventions that are in place. Moreover, CSOs need to be viewed as potential partners in the entire research process, i.e. from the design stage to dissemination cycle, and should not be viewed as merely being capable of voicing “community needs” or disseminating research findings. In addition, research funding needs to be sensitive to the necessity for civil society participation throughout – from the stage of priority setting to refining evaluation methods and to communicating what concrete actions can be taken to reduce health inequities. Finally, civil society has a key role in policy change through its constituencies in engaging on and influencing policy choices, and in linking the evidence and knowledge from research to policy processes. These processes were discussed and further reinforced during the Global Ministerial Forum on Research for Health 2008 in Bamako and during Global Forum on Health Research 2009 in Havana.