Good results and exciting challenges for the GLOBVAC program

The Research Council’s Program for Global Health and Vaccination Research (GLOBVAC) has received an extremely positive report from the panel of international experts that conducted an evaluation of the program. The panel recommends that activities under the program be continued and expanded.

Close to 10 million children under the age of five die every year, and more than 95 percent of these deaths occur among the poor in developing countries. Despite this, only a small proportion of the world’s health research is devoted to health problems in these countries. Thanks to the GLOBVAC program, Norway has significantly increased its efforts in this area over the past few years.

Research for health benefits

The overall objective of the GLOBVAC programme is to strengthen and expand research that can contribute to sustainable improvements in health in low- and middle-income countries. The program encompasses both health research in a broad sense and vaccination research related to diseases that affect these countries.

If effective vaccination programs were implemented, the child mortality rate could be considerably lower. “The Norwegian Government’s funding for research on vaccines is a small but important contribution to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal aimed at reducing child mortality,” states Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, commenting on the GLOBVAC program.

Interested researchers

The new evaluation emphasises that the GLOBVAC program has generated more interest in global health and vaccination research in Norway. Research activities in the field have become more visible as well.

The number of grant applications has increased considerably since the program was launched in 2006. “We received 14 applications for vaccination research in response to our first call for proposals. Since then we have worked actively to raise the profile of the program within the research community and to promote the recruitment of researchers to the field. This year we received a total of 35 applications in connection with the call. We have also been successful in attracting more research groups and young researchers to the program,” says Programme Coordinator Kårstein Måseide.

Clear success at an early stage

According to the evaluation, it is too early to determine how much the GLOBVAC program has helped to reduce global health problems. Most of the projects are in an early phase and the results achieved from their research findings cannot yet be assessed. However, the evaluation panel notes that the GLOBVAC program is already an excellent initiative that should undoubtedly be continued and expanded.

Valuable North-South cooperation

A large number of the GLOBVAC projects are cross-disciplinary and involve researchers from several institutions. Several of the projects also participate in large-scale international cooperation. Most of the projects have partners in Africa, Asia or Latin America. Separate calls for proposals have given a boost to cooperation between Norwegian and Indian researchers within the field of vaccination research.

Research exchange between Norway and the relevant partner countries is an important part of the program’s activities. Moreover, participation in projects under the GLOBVAC program has enabled students from countries in the South to take their master’s or doctoral degrees at educational institutions in Norway.

Room for improvement

“During the initial years we have sought out good research projects from a relatively broad range of research groups. The evaluation recommends that it could now be appropriate to take a more focused approach by putting more emphasis on funding the best research projects,” explains Måseide. Targeted measures to ensure that more researchers are recruited to the field are also important.

The evaluation panel points out that more projects are needed on health systems, implementation and operations research.

Annual GLOBVAC conference a success

At the turn of the month (November-December) the GLOBVAC program held its annual conference, “Meeting the challenges of the Millennium Development Goals and beyond – Health research and policy”, in Oslo, in cooperation with the Norwegian Forum for Global Health Research, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation – Norad, the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the University of Oslo.

The conference is the GLOBVAC programme’s fourth event of this type. Participation has increased from 90 participants in 2006 to well over 200 this year. In Måseide’s view, this is an indication of the growing interest in Norway for global health research.

The GLOBVAC conferences bring together Norwegian and international researchers, students, politicians and others with an interest in global health research.

Source: The Research Council of Norway

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