Program-based operational research (OR) is instrumental for the enhancement of TB control. Ethiopia has a strong history of conducting operations research, but translating research results into policy or practice has been limited. In 2012, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, together with USAID, KNCV and other partners, launched an initiative to develop sustainable capacity for operational research in Ethiopia. The results were published as a supplement to IUATLD’s Public Health Action in December 2014; Ethiopian OR Initiative (Volume 4, Supplement 3, 21 December 2014):
Klinkenberg E, Assefa D, Rusen ID, Dlodlo RA, Shimeles E, Kebede Y, Fiseha D, Tsegaye F, Leimane I, Teklai Y, Dacombe R, Aseffa A. The Ethiopian initiative to build sustainable capacity for operational research: overview and lessons learned. PHA 2014;4 Suppl.3.
Increasing sustainability with local expertise
Teams representing regions in Ethiopia conducted operational research, addressing national and regional priorities. To make use of local expertise and increase sustainability, a domestic mentor training program was included. Existing capacity was enhanced through a competitive grant scheme for TB researchers. The Ethiopian Tuberculosis Research Advisory Committee (TRAC) was also supported in its functions. Regional ethics review bodies were strengthened or established where they did not exist.
Operational research in Ethiopia’s regions
Using a ‘learning by doing’ approach, KNCV and TRAC conducted intensive modular training for regional OR teams of TB and TB/HIV program staff together with academia. Fifty-two people were trained and conducted 13 OR projects. In addition, eight protocols were supported through grants. Ethics review bodies were strengthened in all regions. The initiative trained participants from all regions and succeeded in the completion of all stages of the OR process. The success of the program can be attributed to the team approach, ‘learning while doing’, integrated mentorship program and strong national ownership.
Meet Abraham Tesfaye
Abraham is the Head of Health Research and Laboratory Services Unit under the Addis Ababa City Health Bureau.
He has gone through various Operational Research trainings organized by the USAID-funded TB Care I Project (the forerunner of Challenge TB).
As part of the Operational Research capacity building plan, TB Care I conducted Operational Research trainings primarily focused on research proposal writing, data analysis and scientific writing.
The project also supported mentorship programs and published research findings. Abraham developed various studies and participated in national and international competitions. These researches resulted in better gap analysis in service provision and improved program outcomes in relation to medical care or prevention.
“These activities are helping me and I am helping the community” said Abraham, stressing on the impact of these trainings in his own academic endeavors. He is now studying for his PHD.