Friday, 22 December 2017

NATIONAL HEALTH RESEARCH AUTHORITY, LAUNCHED


MINISTER of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya speaking during the
Launch of the National Health Authority in Lusaka
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By Andrew H. Phiri

RESEARCH which is the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions, has taken a new turn in the health sector after the launch of the National Health Research Authority

The Ministry of Health in its transformation agenda has placed health research as a priority need to inform decision making and policy direction using evidence based data.

The National Health Research Authority is a regulatory body that was established under the National Health Research Act No. 2 of 2013. The mandate is to provide a regulatory framework for the development, regulation, financing and coordination of the health research standards and guidelines for ethically sound health research.

In addition, the National Health Research Ethics Board established under the Authority is responsible for the ethical conduct of all health research in Zambia and regulates all Research Ethics Committees and Institutional Boards in Zambia. 

Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary in charge of Administration sees the launch of the Authority as a new chapter in health research and he is optimistic that the authority ushers in a new period in the area of research in the country.

“The launch is going to change the landscape of research in the country. Those who are still doubting should loosen up” said Dr Malama

For Minister of Health Dr. Chitalu Chilufya the launch of the Authority will go down into history and books of records that the health sector has changed for the better.  

He further paid homage to his predecessor late Dr Joseph Kasonde for his contribution to research in the country adding that the launch was as a result of the importance he attached to research.

“One giant of a medical doctor” said Dr. Chilufya to a standing ovation “One patriot by the name of Dr. Joseph Kasonde led the research agenda during his tenure as Minister of Health. We celebrate him today”

There is urgent need to address gaps in the process of responding and authorizing research.
It has been discovered that the process could be tedious hence causing delays in research. Therefore, Dr Chilufya has directed the Authority to ensure that they do not allow unnecessary bureaucracy but instead should quicken the process.

 “We must not create bureaucracy in the approval process” Said Dr Chilufya “We need to establish mechanisms that will improve data while protecting individual interest”

Launch participants follow proceedings at InterContinental Hotel
in Lusaka - (Picture by Wezzy Simbeye/Ministry of Health)
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Unified approval process within a consistent system is what he expects from the Authority going forward.

He said that government wants to see timely approval of research studies and told the authority to abandon the business as usual posture.

He said adding that there was need to improve the environment for clinical trials. “It is important that clinical trials are supported through speedy processes”

Among the expectations, the authority will facilitate the investigation on how best to ensure set targets like the elimination of malaria, reduction of maternal death, epidemic control of HIV/AIDS has attained before 2021.

Dr Chilufya also stressed the need to embed a culture of research at University Teaching Hospitals adding that a Consultant has the responsibility to teach, provide service as well as conduct research.
After the launch of the National Research Authority, a consultative meeting with various stakeholders on the mandate of the Authority was held at in Lusaka.

The institution is planning to develop guidelines on traditional medicine as one of its plans in the coming year.

Although experts say that research has not been very bad in the country, there is need to regulate research in order to protect individuals and the population in general hence the establishment of the Authority.

Riding on the demonstrated favourable political environment, researchers are called to undertake studies in issues that affect the country and miss in policy and direction in the health sector. 

"We have a very favourable environment and that is why we need to work" said Dr. Godfrey Biemba

In the past, research has been dependant on external investigations and studies from international organizations like the World Health Organisation. The Minister of Health charged the Authority to correct that and promote research that will give proper direction in decision making in the country.

The Authority has since pledged to embark on a rich audit of previous works thereby assessing how such researches were undertaken and the policy direction in the health sector.

“Message to the researchers that we now have the regulatory board that promotes research therefore endeavour to engage the authority from the beginning” said Dr Biemba

The general public will not be left behind as they are to decipher research.

Simplifying the importance of research, “communities need to demystify research and its importance”

The Authority has since gone digital in the last two months in order to be accessible and speedy the process of authorizing research. “We are improving that platform and we want to make it easy for researchers” assured Dr Biemba

Tropical Diseases Research Centre (TDRC) is Zambia’s only national institute with the mandate to conduct research. Though coordinating other institutions in research, the centre elated with establishment of the National Health Research Authority.

JOURNALIST Andrew Phiri Interview  NHRA Director Dr Godfrey Biemba
 in the sidelines of the consultative meeting held at Anina's Lodge in Lusaka 
- Picture by David Phiri
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TDRC director Dr Modest Mulenga has welcomed the establishment of the authority further pledging to work under the National Health Research Authority as a regulator.

Dr Mulenga said that you cannot do things without evidence when you are dealing with human life hence stressing why research is a battle field which clears the way.

Due to peculiarities in Populations, it is said that Zambia will have to domesticate research. “It’s not right that research that is done else well is applied to our population” he said

Institutions of research go by themes, hence the need to have an overseeing institution to promote, coordinate, regulate and fund research.

The National Health Research Authority has the function of research promotion, regulation, coordination, capacity building and dissemination and knowledge translation and is seating at the University Teaching Hospital headed by a Director who is assisted by two deputy directors.


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