WHO World Health Report 2013: Research for universal health coverage

August 27, 2013

The World Health Organization (WHO) has just released the latest World Health Report.  Titled Research for Universal Health Coverage, it is, in the words of WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, “a report for everyone concerned with understanding how to reach the goal of universal health coverage – those who fund the necessary research, those who do research and who would like to do research, and those who use the evidence from research. It shows how research for health in general underpins research for universal health coverage in particular.”

The report overview describes how "universal health coverage ensures everyone has access to the health services they need without suffering financial hardship as a result. In December 2012, a UN resolution was passed encouraging governments to move towards providing universal access to affordable and quality health care services. As countries move towards it, common challenges are emerging -- challenges to which research can help provide answers."

The three key messages from this world health report are:
1. Universal health coverage, with full access to high-quality services for health promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, palliation and financial risk protection, cannot be achieved without evidence from research. Research has the power to address a wide range of questions about how we can reach universal coverage, providing answers to improve human health, well-being and development.
2. All nations should be producers of research as well as consumers. The creativity and skills of researchers should be used to strengthen investigations not only in academic centres but also in public health programmes, close to the supply of and demand for health services.
3. Research for universal health coverage requires national and international backing. To make the best use of limited resources, systems are needed to develop national research agendas, to raise funds, to strengthen research capacity, and to make appropriate and effective use of research findings.

These are important messages for family medicine and primary care.  We need to support the continued strengthening of our community-based health and medical research base to ensure that necessary research is carried out in primary care settings, and the findings are research are able to be applied in primary care settings.

One interesting table in the report outlines the 10 common mistakes made in the dissemination of new interventions, and suggestions for avoiding them:
1. Assuming that evidence matters to potential adopters

2. Substituting the perceptions of researchers for those of potential adopters

3. Using intervention creators as intervention communicators

4. Introducing interventions before they are ready

5. Assuming that information will influence decision-making

6. Confusing authority with influence

7. Allowing those who are first to adopt (innovators) to gain primacy in dissemination efforts

8.Failing to distinguish between change agents,authority figures, opinion leaders and innovation champions

9. Selecting demonstration sites on criteria of motivation and capacity

10. Advocating single interventions as the solution to a problem

The full report is available at: http://www.who.int/whr/en/