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Setting Research Priorities for a Healthier Africa: Nursing and Midwifery Clinical Research in Southern and Eastern Africa.

21 Aug 2015 - 11:15

“If we as researchers in nursing are truly to make a difference in the health outcomes of people, then relevant clinical research, with considered health interventions, will be what is needed.”

These sentiments from Professor Judith Bruce (Head of School: Therapeutic Sciences, from the University of the Witwatersrand) reflect the thinking of all involved in a recent landmark meeting of nursing and midwifery leaders, at the Columbia Global Center in | Africa (Nairobi), to consider and create a research agenda to improve health care provision in the region.

Twenty-six nurse researchers, from 13 sub-Saharan African nations, were invited to attend the summit. Bruce and Associate Professor Minette Coetzee, from the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, at the University of Cape Town (UCT), were the two invited representatives from South Africa.

The summit was convened from the 7 – 9 July by the Columbia University School of Nursing (CUSN) and the Columbia Global Centers, Africa (Nairobi), as part of a study on the ‘Status of Clinical Nursing Research in Africa’. The summit was conducted in collaboration with the project partners, i.e. University of Nairobi (Kenya), University of Malawi and the Forum of University Deans in South Africa (FUNDISA). Meeting conveners included Dr Elaine Larson (Associate Dean for Research, CUSON) and Dr Jennifer Dohrn, Director of the Global Centre at CUSON, Prof Address Malata (Kamuzu College of Nursing, Malawi) and Prof Hester Klopper, CEO of FUNDISA.   In-country hosts were Prof Joyce Owino (Head of School of Nursing, University of Nairobi), supported by Susan Agunda Otieno (Director of Nursing Services, Ministry of Health, Kenya) and Edna Chemutai Tallam (Registrar, Nursing Council of Kenya).

The meeting followed the publication of a scoping review earlier in 2015, which describes the gaps in published clinical research in the region.  The review concluded that “while most African people receive their health care from nurses or midwives, there is a large gap between the unmet health priorities in the region and the kind of clinical nursing and midwifery research required to improve health outcomes and reduce unnecessary or ineffective treatments or procedures.” [1]

The summit, therefore, aimed to create an action plan that identifies knowledge gaps in clinical care and promotes greater use of scientifically-informed health care practices.  Current critical health care gaps and priorities that are not being sufficiently addressed by national or regional health care research agendas were presented. Ways to set and support a regional nursing and midwifery research agenda in clinical care were explored.

Coetzee shared that the conference “was an exciting meeting of African academic peer researchers and academic leaders who work in similar contexts and share similar challenges and triumphs. The most salient aspects to the meeting included the vibrant engagement and commitment of nurse leaders to shift nursing research in the region to include a more intentional, clinical-outcomes focus.

“The outcome of the meeting was the forming of a network of researchers and academics across the region and three active working groups to lead and support mentorship, resources and networking to build clinical research capacity across the region.

“This will be the first step in setting the greater regional clinical nursing and midwifery research agenda.”