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Education And Debate

Strengthening health research capacity in developing countries: a critical element for achieving health equityCommentary: Health research and human development in Papua New GuineaCommentary: Does strengthening research capacity improve health equity?

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 30 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:813

Strengthening health research capacity in developing countries: a critical element for achieving health equity

  1. Chitr Sitthi-amorn, professor (,
  2. Ratana Somrongthong, academic staff
  1. College of Public Health, Chulalongkorn University, Institute Building 3, 10th Floor, Soi Chula 62, Phyathair road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
  2. Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, PO Box 60, Goroka, EHP441, Papua New Guinea
  3. Center for International Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02118, USA
  1. Correspondence to: C Sitthi-amorn

    Equity in health as the core value of health for all advocated by the Alma Ata declaration has not been achieved. Poverty is widening and inequity prevails.1 New illnesses have burdened and strained health systems. Rapid growth of private medical services, medical technology, and uncontrolled insurance markets in many developing countries with relatively rapid private sector growth have resulted in unwanted consequences, highlighted by the economic crisis in Asia.2 The rising number of international organisations and institutions involved in global health has eroded national sovereignty. The migration of health professionals from the public to the private sector and from developing to developed countries has diminished their ability undertake research and implement research findings.3 It has also limited developing countries' ability to participate in the political debates and decisions on global health governance. Greater support of research for development is needed and health equity must be adopted as a core value.

    Summary points

    Health inequity is widening between and within countries

    Research capacity in developing countries is weak

    As a result developing countries are unable to participate effectively in national and international health policy development

    International and national cooperation and collaboration is needed to strengthen research capacity for health development

    Health policy should be informed by a wide range of stakeholders and underpinned by sound evidence

    Greater solidarity and commitment to tackling global health inequity is needed

    Defining health research capacity

    Health research capacity is the ability to define problems, set objectives and priorities, build sustainable institutions and organisations, and identify solutions to key national health problems.4 This definition encompasses research capacity at the levels of individuals, research groups, institutions, and nations. Research capacity can broadly be divided into four domains: skills and competencies; scientific activities; outcomes; and impacts on policies and programmes.5 Measures on process, outcome, and impact are necessary to …

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