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Health research in the Eastern Mediterranean Region

Countries across the Eastern Mediterranean Region face unprecedented health challenges, and are buffeted by demographic change, a dual disease burden, rising health costs, and the effects of ongoing conflict and population movements – exacerbated in the near-term by instability arising from recent political upheaval in the Middle East. However, health agencies in the region are not well positioned to respond to these challenges because of a dearth of good quality health research.

An article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine by MPH Tutor Professor Salman Rawaf presents an assessment of the current state of health research systems across the Eastern Mediterranean based on publicly available literature and data sources. The review finds that – while there have been important improvements in productivity in the Region since the early 1990s – overall research performance is poor with critical deficits in system stewardship, research training and human resource development, and basic data surveillance. Translation of research into policy and practice is hampered by weak institutional and financial incentives, and concerns over the political sensitivity of findings. These problems are attributable primarily to chronic under-investment – both financial and political – in Research and Development systems.

The review identifies key areas for a regional strategy and how to address challenges, including increased funding, research capacity-building, reform of governance arrangements and sustained political investment in research support. A central finding is that the lack of publicly available data on research systems makes meaningful cross-comparisons of performance within the Eastern Mediterranean Region difficult. Professor Rawaf and colleagues call for work to improve understanding of health research systems across the region.

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