Building an Implementation Science Collaboration on Urban Health in East Africa
The Health Evaluation and Applied Research Development (HEARD) Partnership—and eventual Implementation Science Collaborative (to be launched in October)—brings together a diverse set of stakeholders to inform implementation science agendas and implement evidence-to-use activities. The result is a more holistic understanding of the problems that need to be addressed, and the evidence generated and synthesized is more accessible, usable, and responsive to stakeholder needs.
How does this work, practically speaking? The agenda-setting process (through virtual and in-person consultations) identifies priorities within specific geographic and topical areas. In this case, the identified priority was to assess nutrition and WASH among children and adolescents in poor urban areas in East Africa. Therefore, an Implementation Science Collaboration on Urban Health in East Africa was established to first implement a Three Country Assessment (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) and later, funding permitting, address additional related priorities in this region. This Collaboration can be viewed as existing within the larger partnership and consists of a strategic sub-set of partners with policy, advocacy, implementation, and community platforms, and researchers with data collection and analysis skills.
The technical direction of the Three Country Assessment is co-led by UC Berkeley and UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) with support from University Research Co., LLC. The regional policy lead is East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community (ECSA-HC) and the country-specific assessment teams that will carry out the research-to-use activities (comprised of research and community partners) are Ifakara Health Institute and TAMASHA (Tanzania); Infectious Diseases Institute and ACTogether (Uganda); and Population Council and African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) (Kenya).
The Three Country Assessment aims to inform the interests of major stakeholder groups. It will serve urban nutrition implementation platforms by investigating specific nutrition and WASH implementation challenges in urban contexts through a participatory process (which can further be leveraged for future program implementation); by identifying health and non-health actors (and their roles) required to facilitate successful program implementation; and by uncovering promising urban nutrition-related interventions/approaches that could be integrated into existing and new programs, for expansion and/or scale-up.
The Assessment will inform the urban nutrition research agenda by identifying the gaps in literature and data available for analysis of urban nutrition among adolescents and children in East Africa. The assessment will also inform future implementation science needs (e.g., interventions/approaches requiring further investigation to facilitate implementation/scale-up).
The Assessment will inform policy and advocacy development by identifying national (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) policy and advocacy opportunities and gaps related to advancing urban nutrition among children and adolescents; fostering regional collaboration around policy and programmatic needs and priorities (UNICEF ESARO, ECSA-HC); and using results to make a stronger case for future investments in urban health and development for children and adolescents.