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Building the Case for National Systems of Health Innovation
Background policy paper prepared for NEPAD in advance of the AMCOST meeting and the African Summit, January 2007
The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) www.nepad.org
Science, technology and innovation are vital to poverty alleviation and improved health. However, although improving immediate access to health care and existing health technologies is essential, simply importing technologies and products is not enough to create sustainable health care systems. Countries also need to build the capacities and institutions to develop their own technology and innovations which are tailored to local needs.
But for innovation to meet local needs, countries need to develop dynamic and integrated health innovation systems. This is for several reasons. Firstly, there tends to be a profound lack of understanding between those in the world of healthcare and those who work in health innovation and production of pharmaceuticals. And unless researchers and producers network with local users and consumers, they are much less likely to respond to local needs.
Secondly improved innovation capacity that responds to the needs of users does not occur in isolation - it is not the product of one-off scientific inventions, heavy investment in science or one-off policies. Rather it is dependent on networks through government institutions, private companies and a wide variety of end-user groupings at national, international and sectoral levels. Finally, knowledge is not accumulated and built up in one set of institutions and transferred to another set - it results instead from the interplay between different organisations and institutions.
There is now an unparalleled opportunity to address both the issues of neglected diseases and to develop such integrated health innovation systems. Huge investments are currently being made in global health programmes which seek to improve health services and health innovation systems. The challenge for African policymakers is to adopt strategies for integrating global programmes with local and regional health innovation systems.