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    Mosquitoes around the home can be reduced significantly by minimizing the amount of standing water available for mosquito breeding. Residents are urged to reduce standing water around the home in a variety of ways.


    The best way is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.This can be accomplished using personal protecting  while outdoors when mosquitoes are present. Treated bed nets should be used sleeping. Mosquito repellent should be used when outdoor.


    Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of getting malaria. Pregnant women are particularly at risk of malaria. Children under 5 years are at high risk of malaria.


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INDEPTH Network shows the way

A few years ago, when a group of researchers set out to monitor over 30,000 malaria patients in Ghana, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Mozambique, to gather data on the safety and effectiveness of anti-malarials among these patients, it was part of efforts to deal with one of Africa's unfinished businesses in the health sector.

The research was aimed at cleaning up the health system and uncovering factors serving as obstacles to the effective treatment of malaria among patients.

The research was conducted under the INDEPTH Effectiveness and Safety Studies into anti-malarials (INESS) project, initiated in 2009 as the largest phase 4 structure. And it centered around the debate that anti malaria drugs such as artesunate-amodiaquine and artemether-lumefantrine, could be very efficacious but tend to lose their value because of health system issues and related actors.

The arguments were that patients' care-seeking behavior and health providers' compliance to treatment guidelines, to a large extent, determine how these drugs impact on the health outcomes of patients. Some findings from the project have supported the debate that there is the need to clean up the health system to ake drugs more effective.

Recently, follow-up studies conducted on the INESS platform, to test the safety of eurartesim, has strengthened the position that improving patients' adherence by giving them fewer tablets to take within a few days helps to make treatment effective.

Also data gathered from these studies point to the fact that over-diagnosis within the health system is a critical obstacle to malaria control and elimination. During the recruitment of study participants for these trials, some people who presented with fever with all the clinical signs of malaria did not meet the criteria. After testing them to confirm the presence of malaria as part of the protocols for the study, they had to be dropped, because malaria was not present.

The INESS platform has brought some of the issues to the fore and the good news is that the researchers, who worked on this structure, believe the continent now has a phase 4 platform firmly in place and ready to assess other post-licensure rugs and products.

Bridging the gap The question is what next? And where does the project move to after 5 years of existence? Indeed, there are talks that the project may be expanded to serve as a collection point for pharmacovigilance data and more, by sifting through what is working and what is not, in the health system.

However, the bigger agenda for the INESS project is not just to gather information, but to find practical evidence to drive policy. The end result is policy and implementing solutions found.

Therefore it important that the phase 4 platform should be made relevant by using the real-life data gathered from the platform to drive policy to help bring development to the African community.

Research findings with evidence-based recommendations and solutions in many African countries are known to remain in the archives of time, silently. While, the continent continues to grope in the dark for solutions, with policy makers, politicians and their implementers from the civil service jostling each other for space, trying to solve societal problems.

The call is for researchers and policy-makers to move from mere paper findings and empty talk to action in the face of mounting challenges from all sectors including that of health.

There are a variety of reasons why research findings do not get translated into policies. These include the lack of proper public education, poor communication, lack of adequate financ ial support, weak regulatory framework, poor coordination, political patronage and bureaucratic weaknesses.

It is in the light of these concerns that the INDEPTH Network, an international organization that provides health and demographic-related information in developing countries, recent drive to bridge the gap between research and policy is in the right direction.

Knowing is not enough
The on-going move to get research findings to the policy-makers took a big leap forward at a recent workshop in Navrongo in the Upper East Region of Ghana, organized by the INDEPTH Network. It brought together policy makers, media practitioners and researchers.

Dr Erasmus E. A. Agongo, Director, Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PPME) at the Ghana Health Service, addressing the Navrongo gathering, quoted Goethe saying “knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”

He said: “Research for universal health coverage requires national and international backing. “To make the best use of limited resources, systems are needed to develop national research agenda, to raise funds, to strengthen research capacity, and  to make appropriate and effective use of of research findings.

According to Dr. Agongo, researchers have a role in making research relevant to policy, by engaging key stakeholders, especially policy makers and policy analysts, in conception and conduct of research.

Dr. Afisah Zakariah, Director of Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation at Ministry of Health, touched on the challenges involved in translating research outcomes into policy.

She stressed on the need for research to be carried out by credible institutions and researchers and touched on the weak linkages between researchers, policy makers, implementers and the communities.

Dr. Margaret Gyapong, Director, Dodowa Health Research Centre, together with her team from Dodowa, told the meeting that many factors influence policy making and these include, research evidence, values resourcess, judgements, traditions, expertise, feasibility  and pressure groups.

Mr David Mbulumi, who is on the Research to Policy Team of the INDEPTH Network, told the meeting that researchers work in silos within their institutions. Not aware of what is happening within different groups in same institutions.

He explained that most research institutions have weakness in translating and communicating their research findings to policy and decision makers.

He said: “Policy makers see research as the primary responsibility of researchers thus giving less priority. Thus many policy decisions are made without requiring hard evidence.”

Mrs Charity Binka, AMMREN Executive Secretary, touched on the role of the media and said journalists can help bridge the gap between research and policy when they specialize in science reporting and disseminate regular, timely and accurate research information.

She said the media must also dedicate space for evidence-based research outcomes and create a science desk and urged researchers to work with the media to understand how it works and develop strategies to work with them.

Mrs Binka also called on research institutions to provide the media with information that is concise and more relevant to current debates on health and also budget for the training of a critical mass of journalists who are involved in science reporting.

Dr. Abraham Oduro with his team from the Navrongo Health Research Centre shared their experiences on how studies from the site have impacted on policies in Ghana.

According to him, factors that enabled the policy impact from Navrongo included the early engagement with the local and national policy members, engagement of key champions, who were engaged from the beginning of the studies and also the role played by the international community.

Dr Seth Owusu Agyei of the Kintampo Health Research Centre, together with his team, also shared their story and said the site was set up to deliver high quality research that is relevant to healthcare priorities in Ghana in particular and across  Africa.

He mentioned some studies they carried out which have impacted on policy including the one to assess the clinical and economic benefits or otherwise of restricting ACT treatment to RDT cases. He said the key findings included that RDT use for malaria diagnosis comes up with challenges like stock outs and perceived extra work but it was useful because of the implication for other conditions presenting as fevers.

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