Health Res Policy Syst. 2022 Sep 5;20(1):96. doi: 10.1186/s12961-022-00862-x.
BACKGROUND: Effectively addressing the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by the new pathogen requires continuous generation of evidence to inform decision-making. Despite an unprecedented amount of research occurring globally, the need to identify gaps in knowledge and prioritize a research agenda that is linked to public health action is indisputable. The WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR) is likely to have region-specific research needs.
METHODS: We aimed to identify a priority research agenda for guiding the regional and national response to the COVID-19 pandemic in SEAR countries. An online, anonymous research prioritization exercise using recent WHO guidance was conducted among the technical staff of WHO’s country and regional offices engaged with the national COVID-19 response during October 2020. They were each asked to contribute up to five priority research ideas across seven thematic areas. These research ideas were reviewed, consolidated and scored by a core group on six parameters: regional specificity, relevance to the COVID-19 response, feasibility within regional research capacity, time to availability for decision-making, likely impact on practice, and promoting equity and gender responsiveness. The total scores for individual suggestions were organized in descending order, and ideas in the upper tertile were considered to be of high priority.
RESULTS: A total of 203 priority research ideas were received from 48 respondents, who were primarily research and emergency response focal points in country and regional offices. These were consolidated into 78 research ideas and scored. The final priority research agenda of 27 items covered all thematic areas-health system (n=10), public health interventions (n=6), disease epidemiology (n=5), socioeconomic and equity (n=3), basic sciences (n=1), clinical sciences (n=1) and pandemic preparedness (n=1).
CONCLUSIONS: This exercise, a part of WHO’s mandate to “shape the research agenda”, can help build a research roadmap ensuring efficient use of limited resources. This prioritized research agenda can act as a catalyst for Member States to accelerate research that could impact the COVID-19 response in SEAR.