Perspectives from the Council on Health Research for Development Neufeld V, Johnson N, eds. Ottawa, Canada: International Development Research Centre; 2001. 306 pp.
ISBN 0-88936-935-6



In 1990, the Commission on Health Research for Development (COHRED) issued a landmark publication (Oxford University Press) entitled Health Research: Essential Link to Equity in Development. The usefulness of that report and its impact in guiding health research initiatives in less developed countries led to the production of a follow-up publication reflecting the important lessons of the decade of the nineties and the direction research must take in years to come in order to ensure a healthy future for all peoples. The result was the current publication, Forging Links for Health Research, an evocative collection of human stories reflecting the research experiences of various countries as well as the expert opinions of international public health researchers on how an awareness of the interdependence between social development, equity, and health can lead to more effective health research during future decades.

The book contains the reflections of a group of associates of the Council on Health Research for Development, created by COHRED to work with developing countries in implementing the Essential National Health Research (ENHR) strategy in preparation for the October 2000 International Conference on Health Research for Development, which was held in Bangkok, Thailand. Its focus is on the contribution of health research to development, particularly as a means of achieving greater equity, and on the need for interactions among leaders in health research, within and between countries, for the purpose of sharing national experiences in implementing the ENHR strategy.

The book, which is divided into three parts, devotes the three initial chapters to summarizing key research achievements and setbacks over the past decade, providing recent insights into health inequities, and analyzing the contribution of health research to human development.

In its second part, which is also composed of three chapters, the book goes on to present country experiences in three major areas: promoting community participation in research initiatives, translating the results of research into action and health policy, and strengthening the capacities of national health research systems. There follow a number of "snapshots" of the health research situation in several parts of the world and an analytical commentary on how regional arrangements can and do contribute to national health research efforts.

The two chapters that comprise the third and final section of the book examine ways to meet the important challenges faced by national research systems in the twenty-first century, particularly in their efforts to make health research a decisive tool in attaining equitable health development.

This publication will be useful to academics, researchers, students, and policymakers in public health, epidemiology, health sciences, international health, development studies, and international affairs; professionals in donor organizations, development organizations, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide; and concerned citizens, particularly health care workers interested in international affairs and development in Third World countries.

Forging links for health research represents a joint effort among many individuals, most of them from low- and middle-income countries, and has been written through a collaborative process in which groups of colleagues have provided feedback to one or more lead writers. A series of in-depth interviews with health-research leaders in developing countries also served as a source of information on how such countries should focus future health research so as to facilitate moving from research to action and to effective health policy.

This book can list among its merits the fact that it draws from the past in order to better plan the future, while taking into account the viewpoints and concerns of those directly facing the challenges that lie ahead. Thus, it goes beyond academic and conceptual considerations and reaches into the well- spring of human experience as a source of guidance in making health research respond more directly to national economic and social realities. Through the collaborative nature of the writing and the multiplicity of opinions gathered, the book itself illustrates how to make health research a participatory process involving many sectors as a means toward attaining greater equity in development.

This book may be obtained from: IDRC, P.O. Box 8500, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1G3H9.

Organización Panamericana de la Salud Washington - Washington - United States