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Building research and policy capacities and capabilities for health and healthcare in conflict zones and humanitarian crises

last modified Aug 03, 2017 05:40 PM
A new research project looks at how to build research and policy capacities in healthcare in conflict zones, with particular focus on countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Two billion people across the world live in areas of conflict and fragility. This has led to the greatest forced migration crisis since the Second World War. The impact of this migration crisis includes socio-economic, political and environmental change in neighbouring frontline countries. There is now specific concern among international donors and policy makers about how to address the short and long term health and social welfare challenges generated by these crises

The R4HC project aims to build research and policy capacity among our Middle East partners. More importantly we aim to learn from the experiences and knowledge of our partners to show that the region is more than just sectarianism and security issues. Public policy, health and wellbeing in particular have been neglected subjects in academic and policy discourses on the region. In the ongoing crises in Syria, Iraq and Yemen more people may have actually died due to poor health and lack of access to healthcare than war itself!

Dr Adam Coutts, Research Associate, Department of Sociology

Larry King, Adam Coutts and Brendan Burchell, researchers from the Department of Sociology and colleagues in the Centre for Business Research (Simon Deakin), Psychology (Kai Ruggeri) and the Centre for Science and Policy, form a vital research hub in an ambitious £7 million programme, Research for Health in Conflict- Middle East and North Africa region (R4HC-MENA), which aims to build research and policy capacities and capabilities for the academics and policy makers in the Middle East and North Africa region.

R4HC-MENA is a four-year programme which brings together multiple disciplines, academics and policy makers to develop research training and collaborations between Middle East and UK universities  in order to address the major public policy and health challenges arising from ongoing conflicts and humanitarian crises. The project will have a specific focus in the areas of the political economy of health and healthcare, mental health, and non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) such as cancer, diabetes and auto-immune conditions.

The programme will involve a collaboration of researchers from the University of Cambridge, King’s College London and Imperial College London in the UK and Birzeit University, Hacettepe University (Turkey), King Hussein Cancer Centre (Jordan) and the America University Beirut (Lebanon). These academic institutions will work in partnership with Government, International and NGO partners, such as the World Health Organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Agency for Research in Cancer to deliver the programme.

The programme has three main objectives:

1. Build research and policy capacity

  • Deliver specific UK and MENA based accredited courses for researchers;
  • Mentor leaders in policy implementation at national and global institutional level;
  • Develop distance learning platforms to communicate research results and empower change.

2. Build new, sustainable partnerships between organisations to build expertise and capacity

  • Build education programmes to inform and ensure change;
  • Build expertise in conflict and health research;
  • Build and develop new south-south partnerships.

3. Deliver locally driven research to support objectives 1 & 2 and inform current policy

  • Understand institutions and systems that can ensure good governance for health systems in conflict;
  • Enable progress towards Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health coverage through evidence based policies;
  • Understand the impact of conflict and refugee crises to enable domestic systems to respond through research that informs models and pathways of care particularly for vulnerable populations.

This new project aims to transform knowledge and understanding in the arenas of health and conflict and provide the evidence for policy design and implementation which could drastically improve the lives of those struggling in humanitarian crises and conflict zones. 

A World Leader

The Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge is a world-leading centre for teaching and research in Sociology, consistently ranked first in UK league tables by The Guardian, The Times, and the Independent.

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