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First Latin American Conference on Research and Innovation for Health

The First Latin American Conference on Research and Innovation for Health (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 15-18 April 2008) - co-organized by the Global Forum - provided key insights into national research and innovation systems for health in that region.

Speaking at the conference plenary, Professor Stephen Matlin, Executive Director of the Global Forum for Health Research, provided a global panorama of research and innovation for health.

This groundbreaking conference clearly highlighted the link between innovation and research. While discussing national health research systems, financing for research for health and human resources for health research, participants stressed the significance of regional coordination in Latin America and of the international technical cooperation as a tool to overcome national limitations on knowledge, financial resources and technology.

Main conclusions

  • The strengthening and stewardship of National Health Research Systems (NHRS) along with regional cooperation are vital for facing current health challenges in a context of inequality, delay in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, epidemiological changes, food crises and significant demographic changes that are detrimental to the poorest countries.
  • The stewardship and governance of NHRS are the responsibility of the State and should be actively pursued through the Ministries of Health, with support from other state actors and civil society. Each country must act according to its needs, resources and opportunities.
  • The review of some experiences in the region – in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina –shows that it is possible to achieve concrete results in the short and mid term.
  • In order for NHRS to be sustainable, a coordinated human resource development and training strategy is required. Researchers should be trained while working on projects that are related to NHRS priorities. Training should be more comprehensive and should be coordinated with the production sector. Research teams should be multidisciplinary and stable.
  • With regard to financing, it is essential that there be consistency between the allocation of resources and NHRS priorities, and that innovative strategies to generate funds be sought out, such as levies on industrial products that impact the burden of disease and death. It is equally important to be aware of and evaluate how resources are allocated and used; this requires a public registry of all research activity.
  • Cooperation within Latin America is crucial to supporting NHRS, correcting asymmetries and reconciling the interests of intellectual property with those of public health. In this regard, existing capabilities, resources, agreements and networks need to be assessed in order to take advantage of them effectively and efficiently and to create strategies and plans based on common and complementary interests.
  • International technical cooperation enables countries to overcome their limitations in information, financing and technology. There are many opportunities for sharing resources, training officials and researchers, exchanging experiences, developing and marketing drugs for neglected diseases and accessing research funds.
  • Health challenges can become opportunities through technological and social innovations that are not necessarily costly. Examples can be found within the region; from agreements that allow the Brazilian government to access information belonging to the private sector to partnerships through which new drugs for malaria have been developed and marketed at cost. Forum 2009, organized by the Global Forum, will focus on such innovations from 16-20 November 2009 in Havana, Cuba.

The Conference was hosted by the Ministry of Health of Brazil (Department of Science and Technology) and had been jointly organized with the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED), the Global Forum for Health Research, INSalud Mexico, the NicaSalud Network Federation, and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO).


Conference reports: EN | SP