Public health research is one of the functions that exhibited low performance, with a median of 0.42. A majority of countries exhibited low and intermediate results, with the exception of a few that revealed higher performance.
The indicators for this function’s performance revealed the Region’s main weakness to be the lack of public health research programs. The development of institutional capacity by the NHA to implement research in public health exhibited better performance.
For this function, indicator 1 exhibited low variability, which highlights the lack of national public health research programs in the Region. The other indicators revealed greater variability, and although most countries exhibited insufficient development in these areas, some countries showed strengths.
The primary factors determining this function’s performance are:
• Although 49% of the countries have an agency responsible for elaborating a national public health agenda, there are important weaknesses with respect to the development of such an agenda. In general, the countries indicated that the current public health research agenda does not perform the following functions: address the lack of knowledge on public health priorities, present findings useful to improving health services management, guarantee economic feasibility or sustainability of public health innovations, and support decision making on important public health matters.
• The progress made towards implementing a public health research agenda is not periodically evaluated, and if evaluated, the results are not disseminated to those parties involved.
• Weaknesses exist in the interaction with researchers, especially if they are outside the NHA (for example, from the academic community). The research performed by the NHA is only partially disseminated to the scientific community.
• Mechanisms to guarantee correspondence between public health research and the national priorities have not been established. Although half of the countries have procedures to approve research, only 19% include an evaluation of the subject matter’s importance. Few countries reported having clear and formal mechanisms to assign resources to research.
• Common strengths among all countries were the existence of tools and experts to promote public health research, as well as the utilization of these research findings by the NHA. The vast majority of the countries are able to give examples of research done in public health over the last two years.
• The greatest competencies in research were seen in the areas of epidemic outbreaks and food poisoning. Weaknesses were observed in the research areas of chronic disease risk factors, collective interventions, and community health.
• There is partial research support to the sub-national entities, and most countries encouraged professionals at those levels to participate in research. Furthermore, 32% of the countries indicated that they disseminated their research findings.