Neglected Tropical Diseases: Influence, impact and engagement

By Julie Irving, Sally Theobald, and Kate Hawkins

It has been great to be at the ResUpMeetUp symposium in Nairobi. The different sessions provided excellent opportunities to share perspectives and experiences. There is clear leadership from AFIDEP on research uptake with excellent presentations by Eliya Zulu and Rose Oronje, energising sessions led by Jeff Knezovich and IDS providing interesting content and keeping the buzz alive on social media.

An eclectic and growing research uptake field

Kate Hawkins (Pamoja Communications and partner on COUNTDOWN) said, “I was involved in the first round of health systems Research Programme Consortia, and at that time there was little guidance and academics were often not very supportive. It’s great to see how the field has developed and the sharing between different approaches and sectors, and I look forward to keeping the dialogue and experience sharing alive as we move forward in COUNTDOWN.”

What have we learnt and how we will apply it?

Julie Irving, soon to start as Programme Officer (Research Uptake) for COUNTDOWN explained, “The meeting provided a strategic and timely opportunity to reflect on my skills and experience in research uptake and how to apply these as we move forward with the project. I did a multimedia degree and in this meeting I was able to see how the concepts I’d been working with can be creatively applied to research uptake.  A lot of people at the meeting were struggling with the notions of impact and how to measure it; we have lots of learning here from the processes we went through in developing the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine impact case studies for the Research Excellence Framework. There are also lots of debates on the challenges and time scales for achieving influence that we need to be mindful of and I’m looking forward to thinking creatively about this, and what evidence and indicators we require as we develop our COUNTDOWN research uptake strategy.”

Research uptake: questions for the future?           

Nicholas Benequista raised the important point, what does research uptake look like in difficult, challenging or neglected environments? This is clearly relevant to us, Neglected Tropical Diseases are a very low policy priority in many settings and we will need to ensure we move carefully and sensitively in our work in Ebola-affected Liberia. Sally Theobald, (Social Scientist, COUNTDOWN) said “I enjoyed the discussions that related to the ethics, power and positionality in research uptake. We need to ensure we think critically and creatively here in COUNTDOWN. Currently there is limited literature or resources that share the lived experiences and priorities of communities affected by or living with Neglected Tropical Diseases or the close-to-community providers – community based drug distributors – who delivery Mass Drug Administration. In COUNTDOWN we will be using photo-voice and will seek other opportunities to ensure the experience of neglected communities shape priorities for policy and delivery.”

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