Research policy

World Report on Knowledge for Better Health

Message from the Director-General

The toll of preventable illness, early deaths and lifelong disability in developing countries is not only unjust but a critical impediment to economic development and social stability. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, child and maternal health, coupled with chronic diseases, continue to pose major public health challenges to governments, especially in the developing world. In the continuing battle to deal with these challenges and meet the health-related Millennium Development Goals, we have one indisputable ally: science. In the past few decades science has produced drugs, vaccines and diagnostics that have resulted in major advances in the treatment, prevention and diagnosis of many diseases. Yet there is a sense that science has not done enough, especially for public health, and there is a gap between today’s scientific advances and their application: between what we know and what is actually being done. In particular, health systems are facing growing challenges and there is an urgent need to generate the necessary knowledge for strengthening and improving them.

Through a review of global health research, Knowledge for Better Health makes a diagnosis as to what strategies are needed to reduce global disparities in health through the strengthening of health systems. The report builds on previous reviews of global health research by the Commission on Health Research for Development (1990), the Ad Hoc Committee on Health Research Relating to Future Intervention Options (1996) and the International Conference on Health Research for Development (2000), as well as extensive consultations with key stakeholders. It argues that more health equity can only be achieved through better management of health research and increased investments in health systems research. It also advocates using research to strengthen human resources, health financing, information and delivery of health services. It proposes an action plan to meet these objectives that is based on strengthening and expanding existing initiatives, and on identifying options and strategies for future actions.

I hope this report will act as a catalyst for researchers and those who fund and support research, for governments, civil society, international organizations and all other stakeholders to ensure that scientific advances are applied in future to reduce these inequities and improve health for everyone.

LEE Jong-wook
World Health Organization
Geneva, November 2004