Address by Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia at the Intercountry meeting for strengthening the regional framework and for developing research action plan

14-16 October 2014, New Delhi- India

Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I warmly welcome you to this intercountry meeting for strengthening the regional framework for research and development. You would all agree that health research is critical to improve health outcomes and to find appropriate solutions to everyday challenges in health care settings. These challenges are becoming increasingly complex.

Using research optimally for solving priority health problems is not simple. It has to go through a complex, and, sometimes, difficult process: from ensuring the quality of research to disseminating the findings, and translating research data into policy and practice. Furthermore, health research is not always focused on the areas of greatest need as sometimes it can be a pursuit of individual interests while deciding on their subject of study. Solving priority health problems may not necessarily be the motivation in conducting such research.

As you all know well, the situation in terms of resources for research and research activities have not changed since the publication of the report on Diseases of poverty and the 10/90 gap more than a decade ago. At present 10 percent of resources for research are available in those parts of the world where 90% of the health problems lie. It is estimated that less that 3% of the global funding for research goes to the developing countries, and less than 27% of the total researchers in the world are in developing countries.

We, as WHO and as part of the UN family, have made a commitment to deliver on Universal Health Coverage. To do that we need to accelerate research to find answers to the many unsolved questions on access to health services and financial risk protection. We need to find new technologies and we need to learn to do not only new things, but to do the old things differently if we are to make a difference. In my vision statement for the region, I have clearly pointed out that research and innovation will be encouraged.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need to redouble our efforts to advocate for research so that resources, both global and national, are made available to promote research and we need to emphasize that evidence generated by research is used to frame policies that have high impact on improving quality of health of the people.

We have countries such as India, Thailand and Indonesia with great potential for research as these countries have the human capital and the institutional back-up that can support and carry out high quality research. We must make all efforts to bring together the research communities to share information on work that is ongoing in all countries and to build networks of support for research in the region. And this meeting is one such where, I hope, the best of minds will pull together a strategic framework for promoting research in the WHO South-East Asia Region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As was highlighted at the Thirty-third meeting of ACHR-SEAR, while there is an agreement on health research priorities, the best way to finance research and development in priority areas for health improvement is still not clear. In this meeting, I invite your thoughts to further elaborate the ACHR recommendations in conjunction with the existing SEA Regional Strategy on Research for Health developed for 2012–2016 towards formulating a regional action plan.

The action plan should provide a road map and a menu of policy options for Member States and other stakeholders, to take coordinated and coherent action, at all levels – national to regional – to achieve the objectives and outputs in keeping with the global strategy and the recommendations of the ACHR.

The action plan should prioritize strategic actions, and list the activities with clear objectives and deliverables with timelines. The action plan is about providing direction, setting targets, monitoring programmes and, most importantly, producing outputs.

I hope research institutions in each Member State would update their institutional research action plans after knowing the regional research framework based on priorities developed in the action plan. WHO will continue to support this process to assist countries to strengthen their capacities and implement activities.

I wish you all the very best for productive and meaningful deliberations. Please be guided by what is practical and doable in the remaining part of this biennium and in that spirit we can continue in biennium 2016-2017 within the context of an overall long-term vision for the region.

Thank you.