Operational Research helps public health programs identify challenges and issues and find solutions. It helps public health practitioners make better decisions so that programs that seek to improve the public's health are more efficient and effective in meeting their goals (i.e., to eliminate diseases).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has set out ambitious goals for the control and elimination of certain diseases, and public health programs throughout the world are working to meet those goals. When those programs run into challenges – such as getting disease-preventing medicines to all at-risk members of a population or tracking vaccination records across state lines – operational research can help formulate solutions. These, in turn, often inform policy, which is applied to other settings. Thus, operational research becomes an effective way for public health programs to address these challenges and find solutions to help improve public health programs.
We support various operational research projects with various organizations, clinics, and communities through our Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center (NTD-SC) and our Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII) to help improve effectiveness and processes of public health programs around the world. NTD-SC was developed to utilize operational research as a tool for helping to eliminate and control neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The program helps to prioritize the research agenda and coordinate research initiatives. PHII analyzes business process and conducts research on clinical and laboratory settings to identify ways to improve processes in order for those facilities to provide better care for their communities.
Coordinating Operational Research on NTDs Around the World
Through support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, and UK aid from the British government, our NTD-SC provides guidance for and oversees numerous operational research projects around the world that focus on addressing priority research needs for the NTD community to progress in elimination and control efforts. Its research, led by in-country partners, focuses on “overcoming obstacles to program implementation,” “refining endgame strategies for NTD elimination,” and “ensuring sustainability of program achievements.” Aligning the needs of NTD programs and research priorities, the NTD community can more effectively solve challenges that are impeding the ability to reach at-risk communities and implement sustainable interventions.
To enhance this alignment of research goals, NTD-SC started the Coalition for Operational Research on NTDs (COR-NTD). COR-NTD is a group of researchers, program implementers, and their in-country partners that have the shared goal of optimizing control and elimination of NTDs. The group convenes annually for a meeting that seeks to develop the research agenda for the upcoming year that will best address the needs of the NTD community. The goal of the coalition is to create new synergies within the operational research sector for NTDs and align that research with specific program needs. COR-NTD also provides a platform where operational needs can be defined, research can be collaborated on, and technical challenges addressed. For those interested in attending the yearly meeting and being apart of the Coalition click here.
Building Sustainable Research Capacity in-country
NTD-SC also oversees the African Small Grants program which seeks to increase research capacity in African countries. Through funding from USAID and UK aid and in collaboration with the African Research Network on Neglected Tropical Diseases, NTD-SC helps coordinate operational research projects proposed by African researchers on NTDs to help build research equity in public health throughout the continent.
Business Process Analysis
With the support of implementing partners and funders, PHII, through its Requirements Lab, strengthens health systems by helping health agencies and facilities identify process gaps and weaknesses in their business practices. A Collaborative Requirements Development Methodology (CRDM) approach is used to help clients clearly document work processes, identify areas of improvement, and define the requirements that outline how information systems should support their work so that ultimately they can provide better health services and protection to their communities. This collaborative approach helps public health practitioners and agencies identify areas of similarity, best practices, and intersection so that lessons learned in one scenario can help inform another.
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Katie Gass, PhD
Where We Work
Header photo caption: A set of blood samples spread on a diagnostic tool. During prevalence testing in Haiti for lymphatic filariasis (LF), community health workers use a tablet-based technology for diagnosing LF in the blood.