Forum on Operational Research in Public Health Emergencies
On Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) convened a meeting of key stakeholders to examine the public health research landscape in Nigeria, with reference to the COVID-19 research and publications done by the Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL) and partners.
The meeting, held in Abuja, brought together public health experts to discuss the strengthening of Nigeria’s capacity to conduct research in the context of public health emergencies. The stakeholders’ forum had four sessions that identified areas of strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats in the existing research frameworks/protocols, using the response to COVID-19 as a case study.
The first session was focused on Current Approaches to Research in Public Health Emergencies in the Nigerian Context. Dr. Chinwe Ochu (Director, Prevention Programmes and Knowledge Management, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control) gave an overview of the public health research landscape in Nigeria. Dr. Emmanuel Agogo (Country Director, Resolve to Save Lives) spoke on RTSL’s COVID-19 research in Nigeria – including methodology, key findings, and its applications to Nigeria’s public health response.
The second session had a panel discussion showcasing the perspectives of researchers on Generating Evidence for Nigeria’s COVID-19 Response. Panelists were Professors Sunday Omilabu (Director, Central Research Laboratory, College of Medicine, University of Lagos), and Richard Adegbola FAS (Research Professor & Consultant, Nigerian Institute for Medical Research). This session highlighted challenges to conducting public health research in Nigeria, including a shortage of trained personnel, poor data collection and management structures, inadequate health research infrastructure, and poor funding.
The third session, on Positioning Nigeria for Research in Health Emergencies, highlighted perspectives from the private sector, policymakers, advisory bodies, and development partners on strategies to ensure that Nigeria is better positioned to conduct research in public health emergencies. The panelists, Mr. Zakari Momodu (Projects Director, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Nigeria) Dr. Ngozi Azodoh (Director, Department of Health Planning, Research and Statistics, Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria), Professor Oyewale Tomori FAS (Chairman, Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee on COVID-19, Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria), and Dr. Jenom Danjuma (Technical Officer, Prevent Epidemics, RTSL), emphasized the urgent need to improve domestic funding for public health research, and stop over-dependence on foreign funding.
The final session highlighted lessons from the workshop; participants made recommendations for strengthening Nigeria’s capacity to conduct operational research during, and in-between public health emergencies. Some of the recommendations include ensuring that researchers in Nigeria undertake research that is relevant to the society and increasing domestic funding of health research.