Mentoring a powerful tool for building HSR capacity Print E-mail

By Alice Ghent

Mentoring is one of the most effective strategies for improving health systems research, according to Sara Bennett, lead author of a paper examining how to increase the quality and level of health systems research, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

The study, commissioned for the First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Montreux, points to a major shortage of the skills and capable health systems research organizations that are able to provide reliable research and analysis to guide country health systems.

The study is a systematic review of 73 research papers - 49 papers from high-income countries and 24 from low- and middle-income countries.

Bennett, an Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said mentoring was revealed as “important”, but researchers found that colleagues were often too busy to put aside the time.

She said that insufficient funding was also a problem for researchers, particularly after the initial funding for a project had ended. Many of the papers studied in the review revealed that budgets frequently did not allow funding to establish networks, she added.

Other barriers to increasing the level of health systems research, included lack of support from the host organization, lack of confidence among participants – particularly in the nursing arena – and language barriers. Evaluation of interventions was often weak, she added.

People who had undergone training often found that they could not get use their new skills due to barriers put up by organizations.

The study revealed that few interventions were targeted at multiple levels: network, organizational and individual. An intervention that just addressed one level was more likely to “run into trouble”, Bennett said.

Interventions designed to increase and improve health systems research required a multi-faceted response at all three levels.

“External funders should funnel a larger share of their funding to local stakeholders who had a better understanding of the local context,” Bennett said. Creating an endowment fund might be a way to create sustainable funding that would help researchers to be more secure in their jobs. Innovative fellowship programmes had the potential to offer incentives for senior researchers to stay in their posts.

Bennett suggested that development of open access training modules would respond to the needs of different types of researchers coming into the field.

The paper can be found at:



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