In March, I led policy panels in Benin, Burkina Faso and the Gambia to review research evidence on a specific study. While this was not a systematic review, I believe that the response from those invited would be the same as for a systematic review. What I heard numerous times was real pleasure in being invited to hear about the research, discuss it and consider how to use it. Several people told me they had never been invited before this to hear about a research study, and some researchers told me they had never been involved in reviewing the evidence with those who might actually take it up and use it. They were very appreciative of the opportunity, and I think that more opportunities need to be provided so people can experience the value of this process firsthand and advocate for it. In fact, for some types of research, I would suggest that this should be a standard process at the end of the research that should be planned and budgeted.
The study investigated the use of community healthcare workers providing scheduled screening and treatment of malaria among pregnant women. This was done in Benin, Burkina Faso and the Gambia. We invited technical policy-makers in malaria, maternal and child health, transportation and finance, as well as researchers, NGOs and healthcare providers. The community healthcare workers who were part of the study were also critical contributors. There was such a rich discussion, everyone learned from the process and valuable recommendations came out of the panels.