Go back

West Africans write just half of the region’s health systems papers

Just slightly more than half the lead authors on research papers focusing on health policy and health system research in West Africa were from the region themselves, a study has revealed.

The study, conducted by a trio of researchers led by Selina Defor from the Ghana Health Service and published on 12 July in Health Research Policy and Systems, identified a mere 246 research papers focusing on the region.

The study looked at papers published on health policy and health systems research in West Africa in the quarter-century leading up to September 2015.The time period was characterised by multiple health crises, including outbreaks of Ebola.

However, while the region is home to a diverse population of 350 million in 15 countries, the study found that two-thirds of the papers focused on just three countries—Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Ghana—with Nigeria claiming the most at 30 per cent of the total.

It found that nearly all the papers were in English despite the region’s large Francophone population. The authors also found outside researchers taking the lead more often than not in studies on Francophone health systems.

“The majority of the countries are producing very negligible amounts of [health policy and health systems research] publications, with the few who are producing a fair amount owing the volume of their publications to non-West African authors or West African lead author affiliation with institutions outside the region,” the paper warns.

Nine countries had less than 10 papers published over the 25-year period. Some countries were better covered than others, in terms of their population size. Burkina Faso’s number of publications compared to its population was eight times more than that of Nigeria.

There were signs of hope, however. The pace of publication picked up after 2008 and showed a drastic increase between 2012 and 2014, with a pronounced drop in 2015. The authors say that increased research capacity in health policy and systems research is urgently needed in the region, but mark resource scarcity.

“For a resource-poor region, cross-country institutional collaborations that emphasise collaborative research agenda setting among researchers and research consumers within the sub-region is critical,” they say.