Scientists ‘must ensure key research reaches the poor’

The report considers how Africa is faring in its attainment of the Millennium Development Goals for maternal and child mortality Copyright: USAID

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Scientists must become lobbyists to ensure the fruits of their research reach the poor, says the co-author of a report launched yesterday (9 November).

They need to follow-up research advances that could help the developing world. Often such advances amount to little because they fail to reach the people who need it most, said Seth K. A. Danso, honorary secretary of Ghana’s Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Speaking to SciDev.Net in advance of the international launch of the report ‘Science In Action: Saving the lives of Africa’s mothers, newborns and children’ — launched by seven of Africa’s science academies — he said: "Scientists need to be lobbying policymakers and politicians and advising governments to ensure their work reaches the poor".

The report considers how Africa is faring in its attainment of the Millennium Development Goals for maternal and child mortality. The participating science academies were from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.

The launch of the report was timed to coincide with the 5th Annual Meeting of the African Science Academy Development Initiative in Ghana (10–11 November).

Report coordinator Joy Lawn, director of global evidence and policy for the non-governmental organisation Save the Children South Africa, said basic scientific knowledge was not being implemented in many countries.

"We know that four million women, newborns and children in Sub-Saharan Africa could be saved every year just by using well-established, affordable health care interventions."

Lawn said too often scientists completed a project and walked away — giving no thought to how their findings and recommendations could be implemented by community workers or how they would ever reach the poor.

"There has to be more effort and resources directed towards implementing research so that scientific knowledge can start showing results."

Implementing basic know-how like information on nutrition, immunisation programmes and teaching hygiene would have "a remarkable effect" enabling some countries to achieve their Millennium Development Goals by 2015, Lawn said.

The report suggests that if most under-fives and their mothers were covered by these well-known and essential health interventions by 2015, 85 per cent of current maternal, newborn, and child deaths could be prevented.

Link to full report [3.32MB]