Toolkit Links

HRSA Toolkit Background

5 Nov 2008

Source: HRSA Toolkit


Under the Health Research Systems Analysis (HRSA) Initiative, the World Health Organization (WHO) consulted with a range of partners in high-, middle- and low- income countries to develop concepts and tools to describe, analyze, and benchmark national health research systems. The collection of tools provides individuals, institutions, policy makers and others with information and resources for systematically collecting health research and national health research systems data from individuals, institutions, the media, existing documents, case studies and key informants. This information will allow institutions and countries to describe and analyze health research system activities in a comparable way, over time or across countries, with the information serving as inputs to policies and strategies from a system's perspective. This website provides access to the tools and allows users to adapt these tools accordingly.

For more information on the methods, click here

What is health research?

Health research has been broadly defined as "the generation of new knowledge using the scientific method to identify and deal with health problems" (Report of the Commission on Health Research for Development, 1990). It includes research on any aspect of human health, using WHO's definition of health covering social, mental and physical health. A non-exhaustive list includes determinants of health, health policies, population and public health issues, social, lifestyle and behavioral topics, biomedical and clinical information, health services or health systems issues, product development, etc.

What is a national health research system?

A national health research system refers to "The people, institutions and activities involved in the generation of knowledge to promote, restore or maintain the health status of populations. It also includes the mechanisms adopted to encourage the utilization of health research."

Figure 1: Locating the health research system at the intersection of the health system and the research system.

Assessment, evaluation and potential benchmarking of national health research systems are useful approaches to facilitating discussion within and across countries. The main goals of health research systems are the advancement of scientific knowledge and utilization of knowledge to improve health and health equity.

Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework and operational approach for the toolkit was developed with extensive consultation with experts and other interested organizations, a wide range of researchers and representatives from countries, and individuals working on strengthening health research systems. The framework uses a systems perspective on identifying four key functions, made up of 13 components and two major goals (i.e. advancement in scientific knowledge and improvements in health and health equity) of national health research systems.

For a detailed description of the conceptual framework, click here .

The four attributes of a well-functioning national health research system are:

  • Stewardship

  • Financing

  • Creating & Sustaining Resources

  • Producing & Using Research

For an operational definition of each attribute, click here .

For more information on the toolkit or the HRSA initiative, click here.


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