It was a busy start of the year for the Thanzi la Onse (TLO) Programme! In January 2019, we held the TLO International Conference, the first event taking place in Malawi since the Inception event in November 2017.
The three-day event reunited key TLO collaborators across the UK and East Africa, as well as policy-makers and other researchers. This provided opportunity for discussions between policy-makers and TLO researchers on national and regional health priorities and the ways in which research can contribute to addressing these. Participants reflected on programme successes and challenges faced and discussed areas for improvement.
Research completed to date was presented to participants, who in return had the chance to provide feedback to inform future research activities. Overall, this event allowed all TLO stakeholders to forge stronger partnerships.
The first day of the event was marked by the official launch of the Health Economics and Policy Unit (HEPU), a new unit established at the Malawi College of Medicine with assistance from the TLO programme. The Unit was inaugurated by Kate Langwe, a Director of Policy and Planning, on behalf of Dr. Dan Namarike, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health in Malawi. The rest of the day included various talks introducing the health policy context in Malawi and in the region, as well as presentations on the research generated so far under the TLO programme.
The second day of the workshop was a great step towards a stronger links between TLO researchers and Malawian policy-makers, with the facilitation of a ‘Policy Café’. The session involved a panel of four Departmental Directors from the Ministry of Health, who discussed their key priorities for national health policy. From the panel’s perspective, key priorities include ensuring efficiency of health care provision through budget allocation, effective deployment of health care workers, finding cost-effective ways to address the wider determinants of health and agreeing suitable health care purchasing arrangements.
Later on in the day, TLO researchers had the opportunity to answer questions from Ministry of Health representatives and propose how research can help address these areas.
On the third day of the event, efforts were focussed on the Capability Building in the TLO programme. Ideas were exchanged on how we can build greater capability in health economics in Malawi, Uganda and the region. In Malawi, health economics training will be facilitated via HEPU, through the strengthening of existing capability, delivery of short courses in health economics and supporting formal training curricula at the University. Ministry of Health officials from Uganda expressed desire for similar activities there. ECSA representatives (Edward Kataika and Sibusiso Sibandze) committed to supporting these initiatives at the regional level.
The following week, a two-day regional training workshop was delivered from 4 to 5 February 2019, held in collaboration with the East, Central; and Southern Africa (ECSA) Health Community. This training convened health economists coming from across east and southern Africa to equip them with knowledge and skills in the design of Health Benefits Packages. the launch of the ECSA Community of Practice (CoP) on February 6 marked the end of the TLO meetings in Malawi. The CoP will regularly convene to understand and meet research needs for health economics in the region.
Overall, the TLO Conference and ECSA meetings were a great success and allowed TLO researchers and stakeholders to forge stronger links and exchange ideas on how TLO research can support policy environments for the productive use of that research.