Recently I attended an excellent seminar in Oxford on the topic of Global evidence based projects in health and welfare. This was organised by the Centre for Evidence Based Intervention (CEBI) part of the Dept of Social Policy and Intervention at the University of Oxford. This short but highly effective meeting brought together a number of bodies and institutions active in the field with the aim of sharing ideas, identifying areas of engagement and creating opportunities for mutual support. Judging by the extensive chatter and swapping of contact details at the end it achieved this aim. I for one will be getting directly involved in some simple voluntary research projects which are in need of external support and input.
I was initially sceptical that 11 presentations in 2 ½ hours was a viable format to initiate good engagement but, thanks to the clarity, focus and passion of the presenters, it worked really well. Each presenter stuck to brief and the relatively rapid run through made it easier to identify areas of overlapping interest and potential synergies. It was not so effective at inviting audience interaction but there was plenty of time for that at the end and I’m sure all those with pressing questions would have had an opportunity to ask them since all presenters stayed on for coffee and lunch.
Here are a few highlights and take-away messages from the many informative and interesting presentations.
CEBI – have a number of interesting and vital studies on-going and are looking for help with, for example, a South African study of compliance with ARV regimens in teenagers LWHIV (great opportunity for a volunteering sabbatical for 3 months).
Global Health Network – is an innovative collaborative hub joining together a collection of websites to support research by sharing knowledge and methods for LMICs. They have great e-learning resources and therapy area portals and forums. These can help with practical challenges such as how to get informed consent for trial participation in a child-lead household (not an issue faced by your typical CRO or in a HIC trial!).
Health Information for All – HIFA is an organisation dedicated to ensuring every person and healthcare worker has access to the information they need to make informed decisions about their own and others’ healthcare. Access to the relevant and useful information has been shown to have a massive impact on morbidity and mortality and digital channels plus mHealth initiatives have a key role to play. HIFA tries to collate and direct the right resources to the right groups and separate the evidence-based signal from the ill-informed noise.
International Initiative for Impact Evaluation – 3ie aims to improve lives through impact evaluations. Focussing on LMICs and primarily in non-medical interventions (such as education and nutrition) they are currently trying find and fund research projects and evidence capture in neglected but developmentally impactful areas. Such research can be informed by the powerful Gap Mapping service which 3ie have developed and which builds a highly revealing matrix of interventions against outcomes. This is a service many academic and commercial research groups could find extremely useful.
The Cochrane Collaboration – one of the more well-established and well-known groups in attendance at this seminar have an interesting crowd sourcing project on going. Anyone with an interest in medical research and a few minutes to kill can help with the Embase challenge – follow the link to sign up and contribute. They managed almost 21,000 abstracts in a recent ‘review-a-thon’ weekend!
Evidence Aid – is a small but hugely important and growing voice in evidence-based policy making and intervention related to health outcomes. This group focuses on providing timely and effective access to systematic reviews about interventions and actions which work best before, during and after disasters, humanitarian crises and major healthcare emergencies. Evidence-based data are needed to help coordinate and prioritize the donations and volunteers often deployed in the wake of major disasters (ensuring the effort is directed to things which actually work). Evidence Aid won the 2013 Unorthodox Prize and are looking for help in contextualising systematic reviews for cross-situational applicability as well as general support and awareness raising.
The evidenced-based movement and the pharmaceutical industry have never really been comfortable bed fellows and recent incidents and reports may have further polarised opinion and respective positions. However I firmly believe that it is in the interest of both groups, and most importantly citizens, patients and healthcare providers, that the great knowledge, expertise and passion in medical and welfare research is directed in an open and collaborative way. It is time to reset the debate for we all agree that treatment, care and health interventions should be directed in the best way to the people that need it most.
I have mentioned only 6 of the 11 presentations in this blog but will be preparing a more extensive report on this seminar. If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of this report please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org