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Whose interests does African health research really serve?

Hanlin, R

January 2008

Research Africa

Donors and governments seem to suffer from strategic myopia in health research, a function of the self-interest of powerful research 'partners'. But could the sector be about to change, asks Rebecca Hanlin.

April 1 is a day for jokes around the world, no less so on the blogs of the Center for Global Development. There, Ruth Levine's April 1 posting satirised the flightiness of donors who set funding priorities by headlines and so make sustainable research very difficult. Levine tore into the donor tendency to prioritise the development of new drugs and vaccines over strengthening health systems.

The joke is based on real frustration. Recent papers and articles have strongly criticised donors and African governments for strategic myopia in health research. The question is whether this myopia is inadvertent or deliberate. In recent years, much health research in developing countries - the scientific and technological innovation towards development, delivery and use of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics - has been promoted and conducted through public-private partnerships (PPPs). Yet PPPs are criticised for developing vertical systems that work outside existing health services.

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