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A narrative review of health research capacity strengthening in low and middle-income countries: lessons for conflict-affected areas

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Gemma Bowsher, Andreas Papamichail, Nassim El Achi, Abdulkarim Ekzayez, Bayard Roberts, Richard Sullivan, Preeti Patel

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
JournalGlobalization And Health
Issue number1
Accepted/In press7 Mar 2019
Published26 Mar 2019


King's Authors


Conducting health research in conflict-affected areas and other complex environments is difficult, yet vital. However, the capacity to undertake such research is often limited and with little translation into practice, particularly in poorer countries. There is therefore a need to strengthen health research capacity in conflict-affected countries and regions. In this narrative review, we draw together evidence from low and middle-income countries to highlight challenges to research capacity strengthening in conflict, as well as examples of good practice. We find that authorship trends in health research indicate global imbalances in research capacity, with implications for the type and priorities of research produced, equity within epistemic communities and the development of sustainable research capacity in low and middle-income countries. Yet, there is little evidence on what constitutes effective health research capacity strengthening in conflict-affected areas. There is more evidence on health research capacity strengthening in general, from which several key enablers emerge: adequate and sustained financing; effective stewardship and equitable research partnerships; mentorship of researchers of all levels; and effective linkages of research to policy and practice. Strengthening health research capacity in conflict-affected areas needs to occur at multiple levels to ensure sustainability and equity. Capacity strengthening interventions need to take into consideration the dynamics of conflict, power dynamics within research collaborations, the potential impact of technology, and the wider political environment in which they take place.

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