by Dr Ermel Johnson, WAHO
The West African Health Organization (WAHO), the ECOWAS specialized institution in charge of health, promotes the use of evidence in decision-making and practice as part of the program for the development of health research in the sub-region. This understanding is what led to WAHO to accept the co-funding of IDRC through the IMCHA initiative for the implementation of the Moving maternal, newborn and child health Evidence into Policy in West Africa (MEP) project.
The situation analysis conducted at the beginning of the project made it possible to develop a regional implementation framework for improving demand for the production and use of evidence in decision-making in maternal and child health. The institutionalization of the use of evidence has emerged as a strategy for strengthening and sustaining achievements. Indeed, following a proposal by WAHO, the Assembly of Health Ministers of ECOWAS, adopted at its ordinary session in April 2017 in Abuja, the resolution on the use of evidence in the development of policy documents, plans, protocols, standards and norms. In addition, it was recommended to WAHO to ensure the effective implementation of the resolution in the 15 ECOWAS countries.
WAHO then commissioned a study to: (1) review the literature on the policy development process in ECOWAS countries and the types of evidence-based policy guidelines; (2) develop a regional guideline on evidence-based policy-making in West Africa.
The results of the literature review and the document produced were presented at a workshop held from 24 to 25 July 2019 in Dakar, Senegal. It has seen the participation of research program managers and MNCH program managers as decision-makers from the majority of ECOWAS member countries; as well as AFIDED.
The immediate result from the workshop was the availability of an improved document which gave way to its technical validation. In addition, it was agreed that it would be more appropriate to develop a regional guidance document, which could be adapted by each country taking into account its specificities. Participants also volunteered to be champions for the promotion of this guidance in countries for its adaptation, institutionalization and dissemination for effective use.
As next steps, it is planned to train champions and initiate the process of adaptation and institutionalization in the countries. The document that has passed the technical validation step will be presented to the next Assembly of Ministers of Health of ECOWAS for adoption.