Consortium holds IR workshop to close identified knowledge gap

Work Package 2, in line with its mandate of building the capacity of Consortium members to identify and address the bottlenecks hindering the effective delivery of medical interventions, tools and policies using an IR approach, held an Implementation Research (IR) workshop for member institutions of the Consortium.

31 participants from Work Packages 1, 2, 3 and 4 representing three institutions (WPs 1 & 2/University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS); WP3/Ministry of Health (MoH); and WP4/Food and Drugs Authority (FDA)), attended the workshop from 14 to 18 February 2022 at the Hephzibah Christian Center in Aburi, Ghana. The workshop was intended to facilitate the development of IR study proposals by the Work Packages of the consortium.

Participants from each work package formed multidisciplinary teams to facilitate the development of their respective proposals. Over the period, the teams from UHAS (WP1& 2) and MoH (WP3) developed one proposal each while the team from FDA (WP4) developed two proposals. Each team was assigned an embedded scientist from UHAS who provided guidance and coordination in the proposal development process to ensure they worked effectively and efficiently by.

Facilitators of the workshop included some experienced scientists in the area of implementation Research, such as Prof. Margaret Gyapong, Prof. Olumide Ogundhunsi, Prof. Tuoyo Okorosobo, Prof. Evelyn Ansah and a host of young scientists with multi-disciplinary backgrounds from WPs 1 and 2. In order to make the learning process effective, each team was assigned an embedded scientist from UHAS to assist team members.
Key areas covered during the workshop included an overview of IR, its scope, characteristics, and key concepts, the components of and how to develop an IR proposal, research designs, data management, project planning, disseminating the research findings, ethics in IR, gender intersectionality in IR, and uptake of research findings. Each day usually started with technical presentations in plenary followed by discussion sessions for participants to seek clarification. These sessions were followed by “write shops,” during which the WP teams, with the support of the facilitators, took time to develop sections of their proposals covered in the technical presentations. The evolving proposals were presented in plenary for peer review by all participants. The participants appreciated the cross-fertilisation afforded by this measure and contributed to the quality of the final draft proposals. Thus, at the end of the 5th day, each team had a fair initial draft of their study proposals.

The final proposal topics are:

  1. Addressing low uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in the Volta Region of Ghana.
  2. Addressing implementation bottlenecks of TBUM intervention in Greater-Accra Region.
  3. Identifying and resolving the non-application of the outcomes of Health Technology Assessment on COVID-19 vaccines by implementing stakeholders in Ghana.
  4. Identifying and addressing challenges with uptake of mobile application for reporting adverse reactions in Ghana.

On the final day, each team presented its final draft proposal. This last session had special guests in attendance: Dr. Alison Krentel, a researcher and an IR expert from the Bruyere Institute, University of Ottawa Canada; Dr. Bertha Garshong, a Ghanaian health economist and independent consultant; and Dr. Joycelyn Azeez of Ghana’s Ministry of Health. The guests asked probing questions, and made valuable suggestions for the different proposals.

Participants expressed their satisfaction at the end of the workshop. One participant commended the facilitation approach, i.e., theory followed immediately with practical application, and stated that this was considered an ideal teaching method. The participant further stated, “to actually see your proposal and believe you have written this is encouraging.” Another participant said, “We came with limited understanding although we have done the IR MOOC… we are now IR specialists.”

In the days following the workshop, the WP IR teams are expected to present their proposals to stakeholders in their respective institutions, incorporate inputs from the stakeholders in finalising their proposals, and submit the proposals to facilitators for review. Facilitators outlined to the teams at the end of the workshop, activities with respective timelines in readiness for data collection (such as development of data collection tools, Informed Consent forms, and submission of proposals for ethical clearance).