New recommendation on developing a public health research agenda

TDR news item
25 January 2018

TDR coordinator Dermot Maher has co-authored an editorial in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization calling for WHO to use its normative role to support the development of an agenda for public health research. He and Nathan Ford from the HIV and Global Hepatitis Programme at WHO argue that a unique and efficient opportunity arises from the WHO guideline development process. The editorial describes this process and provides an example of deriving key research questions as part of guideline development.

WHO Executive Board session
A session of the WHO Executive Board
WHO/V. Martin

The process involves the use of comprehensive assessments of evidence from high-quality systematic reviews complemented by other sources of information; the inclusion of leading experts to review evidence and formulate recommendations; and the identification of research gaps and needs. The variety of stakeholders in the guidelines development group provides a broad perspective.

The example concerns the guideline development group on post-exposure prophylaxis for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, which identified three main sets of research questions from the relevant systematic reviews, concerning: i) barriers to access to post-exposure prophylaxis and related clinical care; (ii) generation of data to inform the choice of an optimal drug regimen, record drug toxicities and track follow-up and linkage to care; and (iii) determining the optimal strategies to promote adherence and successful outcomes.

The authors argue that this agenda for public health research would complement the work of the WHO Global Observatory on Health Research and Development. They add, “A standardized approach to identifying research priorities through the guideline development process would not only feed into a WHO research agenda, but also likely encourage that more consistent attention is given to this step in guideline development.”

For more information, contact Dr Dermot Maher.

Related links