Interview with Kershelle Barker

01 Jul 2023

Listening to partners: Caribbean Centre for Health Systems Research and Development (CCHSRD)

Presentation: the Caribbean Centre for Health Systems Research and Development (CCHSRD) is a Research Centre at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T). The Centre was established in 2018 to pursue a program of work in Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR), to address pressing policy and system issues faced by decision-makers in the Caribbean region. We engage in several activities within four core functions: Research Execution, Knowledge Translation, Health Human Resource Training and Development, and Citizen Engagement. For this newsletter, we spoke with Kershelle Barker, Junior Fellow, Evidence Synthesis at CCHSRD.

Hub LAC: Tell us a little bit about the Caribbean Centre for Health Systems Research and Development and its research focuses on evidence-informed policy-making.

K.B: With a mission to generate and facilitate the use of research evidence to strengthen health systems and policymaking processes, much of our work focuses on building individual and institutional capacity in evidence-informed policymaking (EIP). To this end, CCHSRD has conducted Needs Assessments with the Ministries of Health; Labour; Planning and Development; Social Development and Family Services; and Sport and Community Development in T&T, to understand their policymaking processes, their use of evidence, and their EIP training needs. Subsequently, we hosted priority setting exercises and EIP capacity building workshops, and provided coaching and mentoring to selected staff as part of two major projects – the WHO Building Institutional Capacity for HPSR and Delivery Science (Knowledge to Policy Centre Mentorship Program) and the Partnership for Evidence and Equity in Responsive Social Systems (PEERSS) project.

Additionally, CCHSRD successfully launched its Evidence to Policy Fellowship Training Programme in 2020, to promote evidence-informed policymaking and practice by building the capacity of policymakers (to use evidence) and researchers (to support the policymaking process).

The Centre has produced / co-produced several knowledge translation products to inform multisectoral policy or programmatic action. These include six (6) Evidence Briefs for Policy and four (4) Rapid Response Briefs on priorities in health (human resources, sexual and reproductive health services, mental health, and service delivery); and other social sectors (labour, education, social welfare, and community development). We have also hosted a stakeholder dissemination meeting and two stakeholder dialogues, and are engaged in follow-up/advocacy activities to encourage uptake of the evidence.

Hub LAC: What specific regional efforts has the CCHSRD undertaken to enhance decision-making in the Caribbean context? Could you provide a few brief examples to illustrate?

K.B: The second cohort of CCHSRD’s Evidence to Policy Fellowship Training Programme was open to decision-makers in the Caribbean. One fellow from Guyana successfully completed the programme, and an Evidence Brief for Policy aimed at improving access, quality and equity in health service delivery in Guyana was produced. This Brief contained local evidence on the problem, as well as proposed policy elements to address the problem, informed by the best available evidence. Though the fellowship programme has since ended, we intend to further engage with stakeholders in Guyana, to provide training and capacity-building in EIP skills and processes.

In 2022, CCHSRD collaborated with the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) Evidence Hub to host a virtual learning workshop. The objectives were to identify local and regional EIP needs; connect key stakeholders from three Caribbean countries (T&T, Barbados and Jamaica); and generate knowledge about EIP in the LAC region. This workshop provided valuable insights about common barriers and facilitators to EIP in the Caribbean, and the factors needed to build a strong evidence ecosystem.

Also, CCHSRD is home to the Caribbean Community of Practice for Health Policy and Systems Research (CoP4HPSR), which is a network of 135 researchers, health professionals, policymakers, and other stakeholders from 14 countries, who are committed to building HPSR capacity in the Caribbean region. Through information-sharing and frequent discourse on HPSR topics, we aim to continue strengthening decision-makers and researchers’ understanding of the crucial role of evidence in policymaking/decision-making in the Caribbean.

In your opinion, what significant contributions can a regional collaborative Hub make to address the knowledge translation needs in an evidence-informed policy-making ecosystem in our LAC region?

K.B: A regional collaborative Hub is important in fostering a shared understanding of and commitment to utilising evidence in decision-making in LAC. Common challenges we face on a regular basis, which hamper this effort, include a disconnect between research outputs and policymakers’ needs; and a lack of contextualised data and evidence to inform policies, programmes or interventions in-country.

Having a regional body dedicated to filling this gap and generating knowledge translation products and services tailored to the LAC region would result in policymakers/decision-makers being provided with timely, relevant evidence to inform actions that are more likely to: (i) be feasible and make better use of already limited resources; (ii) counteract potential context-specific barriers to implementation; and thus (iii) achieve positive impact, such as improving health and other population outcomes.

Collaboration at the regional level can also help increase decision-makers’ buy-in to the research/evidence-to-policy process, and strengthen relationships between countries, to pool resources and efforts in order to address regional health and social priorities.