The Global Health Network aims to accelerate and streamline research through this innovative digital platform. The idea is to provide a mechanism for facilitating collaboration and resource sharing for global health.
The Global Health Network is very encouraged by the most recent World Health Report (WHO 2013) (Research for universal health coverage) where the report, for the first time, explicitly calls for the need for more locally-led research. The report concluded that if there is ever to be really dramatic improvements to the mortality that is caused by the World’s most burdensome diseases then there is a drastic need for more evidence. The call is for more research and that low and middle-income countries need to be the generators and not the passive recipients of data and evidence. Here in lies the problem. There are still far too few locally-led research studies that are conceived, planned, led and operated by researchers from and in LMICs. There are compounding reasons for this but the lack of access to support, training, tools and resources are important factors in this gap. The Global Health Network aims to enable research by sharing tools, resources, knowledge and best practice. In fact the Global Health Trials area of The Global Health Network is discussed on page 107 of this WHO report and recognised for the contribution that Global Health Trials is bringing to research capacity development by facilitating the sharing of templates, tools, protocols and allowing research staff to provide support and guidance to each other.
The Global Health Network is an online science park that allows researchers to work together without geographical, institutional or financial barriers. The result is a productive, interactive environment where research teams are accessing peers, generating research documents, acquiring technical expertise and developing new protocols in open collaboration to hasten and improve their, and importantly others, research outputs.
This is a thriving system of connected, yet individual, areas that are each led by research groups from all over the world. Each independent member group uses The Global Health Network to focus on a specific therapeutic area such as respiratory disease, maternal health or oncology, or type of research like diagnostics or microbiology, or are cross-cutting research support communities such as clinical trials, research review or bioethics.
The Global Health Network can transform research by enabling researchers to share methods across staff levels, communities, regions, diseases and disciplines of global health. This is happening by enabling the theory of Communities of Practice. This is where practitioners experiencing an issue work together to address it by sharing their experiences, methods and solutions. For example, a research group in Kenya has guided a research group in Malawi in setting up a data management system for their study.
The Global Health Network is providing the sophisticated technology and the tools for this to happen allowing researchers to work together online, and this is a place where researchers come to receive rigorous guidance and training that is written by experts. This facility also creates partnerships through novel applications, such as site-finder.org. It is highly regarded as a neutral and independent space, which is uniquely applying cutting edge digital technology to enhance global health research.
Since 2011, to March 2107, researchers, nurses, technicians and scientists working in LMIC countries have accessed The Global Health Network over one million times, to share research methods, knowledge and processes, with many thousand of regular users. Over 207,000 online course modules have been taken, and there are over 37 research groups with areas on this platform. The Global Health Network has grown into renown, valuable and trusted resource to those working in global health research. Impact evaluation is embedded and strong quantitative and qualitative data show how research teams are gaining from this and that their research is being enhanced.
This clip shows feedback from a local public health worker in Ethiopia after he attended one of The Global Health Network research skills workshops. In summary Abrahim explains that previously he thought that clinical trials were something people from overseas come and do, that they are expensive, and just about drugs and vaccines. See how his views have changed.
Within The Global Health Network each member area has its own governance structure and a representative of each of these form the management group of The Global Health Network. Each member area has a coordinator and they have a coordinators forum where ideas and resources are shared.
The Global Health Network also has a steering committee to ensure that the aims and objectives are being met. This committee is comprised of Trudie Lang (University of Oxford) Kevin Marsh (KEMRI-Wellcome Programme, Kenya) Rosanna Peeling (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), David Lalloo (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine), Tumani Corrah (MRC The Gambia), Patricia J Garcia (Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia Peru) and Arthur Thomas (Oxford Internet Institute).