Productive Discussions at Second TCRP Symposium
The city of Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria in north-eastern Tanzania was the setting where the work of the Tanzania-Canada Research Partnership (TCRP) to date was reviewed, and further collaborative opportunities were proposed. The twenty participants included six from the local host—the Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences (CUHAS), five from elsewhere in Tanzania, eight from Canada and one from the UK.
The symposium began with participants summarizing current research projects and interests, several of which focused on maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH). Also presented were updates from the working groups that had been identified at the 2014 symposium when the TCRP was launched. Vice-chancellor of CUHAS, Paschalis Rugarabamu described the health and development context of the Lake Zone, an area comprised of six regions and a population of about 14 million people. He summarized the evolution of CUHAS and the key research initiatives currently underway. He also presented his vision of the special challenges and opportunities for the university, given its -commitment to improving the health and well-being of the people of the Lake Zone.
Special guests included Linda Beyer, IDRC Senior Program Manager who summarized the “Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa” (IMCHA) program that supported the projects of several of the participants. Also contributing to the deliberations was Hassan Mshinda, Director General of the Tanzania’s Council on Science and Technology (COSTECH). Dr. Mshinda, in a “hot seat” setting, was interviewed by participants. He described the COSTECH role in promoting science and technology, and shared his perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for collaborative, trans-sectoral research in Tanzania.
Based upon the information and perspectives provided, working groups then debated specific issues and put forward action recommendations to be included in the 2016 TCRP work plan (that will be posted on the TCRP website). The following key themes were presented and discussed:
• Special activities that CUHAS could consider, given its location, and its commitment to serving as a resource to the people in the Lake Zone;
• Opportunities for sharing knowledge and promoting collaboration among the six project groups in Tanzania that are supported by the IDRC IMCHA program;
• Strategies for ensuring that results of the research produced is influencing policy and is being used by decision-makers;
• Ideas emanating from considering the larger health and environment context of the Lake Zone. In addition to MNCH, these could include such research areas as the “One Health” approach, and the health impacts of mining, all facilitated by the use of remote sensing technologies.
The symposium concluded with reflections by our special guests on the ideas discussed and the actions proposed. Linda Beyer encouraged participants to think further about leadership, scaling up, innovation and knowledge translation. Hassan Mshinda emphasized the trend in the country toward decentralization and the “entry points” for research on the broader determinants of health, such as nutrition. Chris Thomas applauded the trans-disciplinary approaches taken on focus areas such as MNCH and geography, and encouraged participants to think about the outcomes of research.
Overall, there was a strong commitment by participants to develop a work plan for the coming year, with the goal to strengthen the TCRP and meet again next year.