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African countries must adopt a strategy for developing human resources with the skills to manage and deliver health research, argue Carel IJsselmuiden and colleagues from the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED).

Although Africa's health research capacity has grown in recent years, it remains uncoordinated, small-scale and driven from outside the continent, they say. The international community should support efforts to make human resources planning a key part of global and national agendas. This is essential for research into homegrown solutions for better health.

Efforts to strengthen human resources capacity for health research must include training individuals but also creating enabling environments — a "system with people who have skills including administration and management, priority setting, networking and leadership, translation into policy and action, dissemination, advocacy, and ethics", write the authors.

Human resource building activities currently overlap between sectors — health, science and technology, and higher education — and, as a result, gaps are not addressed systematically.

IJsselmuiden and colleagues recommend that African countries develop a coordinated strategy to build capacity; that greater collaboration between international funders must be encouraged to make capacity building part of research programmes; and that current efforts should be diversified and evaluated to measure their effectiveness.

Link to full article in South Africa Medical Journal