Background: Limited health research capacities (HRC) undermine a country's ability to identify and adequately respond to local health needs. Although numerous interventions to strengthen HRC have been conducted in Africa, there is a need to share the lessons learnt by funding organizations, institutes and researchers. The aim of this report is to identify best practices in HRC strengthening by describing a training programme conducted between 2016 and 2017 at the Saint Joseph's Catholic Hospital (SJCH) in Monrovia (Liberia).
Methods: A call for trainees was launched at the SJCH, the Liberia Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA), the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Mother Pattern College of Health Sciences (MPCHS) and community members. Selected trainees participated in four workshops on Good Clinical Laboratory Practice (GCLP), standard operating procedures (SOP) and scientific communication, as well as in a 5-months eLearning mentoring programme. After the training, a collectively-designed research project on malaria was conducted.
Results: Twenty-one of the 28 trainees (14 from the SJCH, 3 from LMHRA, one from MPCHS, and 10 community representatives) completed the programme satisfactorily. Pre- and post-training questionnaires completed by 9 of the trainees showed a 14% increase in the percentage of correct answers. Trainees participated in a mixed-methods cross-sectional study of Plasmodium falciparum infection among pregnant women at the SJCH. Selected trainees disseminated activities and research outcomes in three international meetings and three scientific publications.
Conclusion: This training-through-research programme successfully involved SJCH staff and community members in a practical research exercise on malaria during pregnancy. The challenge is to ensure that the SJCH remains active in research. Harmonization of effectiveness indicators for HRC initiatives would strengthen the case for investing in such efforts.
Keywords: Good Clinical Laboratory Practice; Malaria; Pregnancy; Research capacity strengthening; Training.