Operational research identifies new ways forward post-Ebola

TDR news item
24 July 2017

A supplement of 16 articles on lessons learned in the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia and Sierra Leone has been published in Public Health Action. The studies were developed out of the TDR supported structured operational research and training (SORT IT) workshop, and provide valuable lessons for strengthening the health system.

Operation to curb the spread of Ebola disease in Western Region of Sierra Leone
Operation to curb the spread of Ebola disease in Western Region of Sierra Leone
Credit: WHO/Stéphane Saporito

Staff from ministries of health and district health management teams were trained to use routine performance data on a wide range of programmes, and they used these data to assess changes over the outbreak. The studies cover mother and child health care services, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis, vaccination, malaria, malnutrition and non-communicable diseases programmes. In addition, infection prevention monitoring, community health worker programme and performance-based financing are included.

The studies also captured adaptive approaches that may improve the utilisation and provision of health services.

An editorial by Tom Decroo, Gabriel Fitzpatrick and Jackson Amone pointed out the increased capacity in this area due to SORT IT, with both scientists and public health officials learning this process and becoming mentors for junior researchers.

They write, “The research community should find ways to embed operational research in the response to such extended and devastating outbreaks. Although emergencies require quick decision making, these decisions would be more effective if evidence-informed.

“We therefore end this editorial with a concrete question: would it be feasible for the research community to organise a ‘rapid response’ operational research team to inform health system responses during an outbreak? Such operational research could employ quantitative and qualitative methods, and ensure that policy makers have access to evidence for decisions when time and resources are scarce.”

For more information, contact:
Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289
E-mail: guthj@who.int.