Applied social sciences for public health (ASSPH) : higher degree training for implementation research on tropical diseases
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Brunel University. Centre for Public Health Research. International Health Group, UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, and World Health Organization (2007) ‘Applied social sciences for public health (Assph) : higher degree training for implementation research on tropical diseases / prepared by the international health group of the centre for public health research, brunel university, london, uk for the research capability strengthening (Rcs) unit of the unicef/undp/world bank/who special programme for research and training in tropical diseases(Tdr)’, (TDR/RCS/07.1), p. 47. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/43691
Understanding and monitoring the dynamic nature of a population’s health is critical for successful health promotion, disease prevention and disease control. It necessarily involves a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary endeavour. Many of the research techniques and tools to facilitate this are available across the range of social sciences. However, as a result of economic and other factors, building and retaining of research capacity in applied social sciences for public health (ASSPH) in resource-poor countries has been a challenge. There is therefore a serious lack of ASSPH researchers and consequently an ongoing dearth in high quality research that involves social, economic and behavioural aspects of tropical disease control despite the clear need for evidence in this area. This need was identified in the TDR review of research capacity strengthening in 1999 (TDR, 2000). However, seven years later, the problem remains critical. A further need has been identified for applied social science research in the process of implementation of disease control programmes – i.e. for ‘implementation research’. Over the last 30 years, TDR and other medical research institutions have invested substantial funds in the development of interventions for the management of tropical diseases. However, in the absence of capacity and understanding in how to engage with communities and ensure their participation, and of the ability to adapt research methods and health technologies to local contexts, the uptake, effectiveness and sustainability of these interventions remains limited. The lack of high quality social science research expertise to combine an understanding of tropical diseases with the ability to work with and understand the local community is chronic. Further expertise is also required to integrate this knowledge with institutional and organizational structures that support the successful and sustained uptake of new technologies. This present initiative draws on existing capacity in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) with support from Southern and Northern partners to develop high quality, internationally recognized, higher degree interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research training that is grounded in theoretical and applied social science and public health disciplines and relevant to local contexts. These programmes will be offered through regional centres of excellence. As background to the initiative, this report is a compilation of three independent but inter-related documents presenting background information on ASSPH and a strategy for building capacity in subSaharan Africa. The specific focus is on training a workforce for implementation research at Master’s and potentially PhD level. The report presents: • A background on the training needs in ASSPH in sub-Saharan Africa and an overview of related courses and programmes available locally and internationally. • A strategic vision for capacity building in ASSPH based on consultations with stakeholders in the region and in related disciplines. • A review of current training capacity and proposed training programmes in Ghana and Kenya for Anglophone countries in West and East Africa respectively.