From local to global: a qualitative review of the multi-leveled impact of a multi-country health research capacity development partnership on maternal health in Sudan.
BACKGROUND: There is a substantial body of literature on the principles of good partnerships and the rationale for such partnerships in research capacity strengthening. This paper illustrates the long term effects of a multi-country (8 countries) global partnership for health systems research capacity development (Connecting health Research in Africa and Ireland Consortium - ChRAIC) in relation to its contribution to capacity strengthening, public advocacy and policy influence at different levels and its practical achievements in Sudan in addressing access to maternal health services.
METHODS: The authors (all members of the global partnership) reflect on the project in one of its' partner countries, Sudan, over its' five year duration. This reflection is supported by specific project data collected over the period of the project (2008-2014). The data collected included: (i) 6 monthly and annual donor reports; (ii) a mid-term internal and end of project independent evaluation of the entire project, and; (ii) a Ph.D study conducted by a member of the Sudanese research team.
RESULTS: The ChRAIC project in Sudan achieved the deliverables set out at the beginning of the project. These included a national knowledge synthesis report on Sudan's health system; identification of country level health systems research priorities; research capacity assessment and skills training, and; the training and graduation of a Sudanese team member with a Ph.D. Mechanisms established in Sudan to facilitate these achievements included the adoption of culturally sensitive and locally specific research and capacity strengthening methods at district level; the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at country level between the Ministry of Health, research and academic institutions in Sudan, and; the establishment of country level initiatives and a research unit. The latter being recognized globally through awards and membership in global health forums.
CONCLUSION: We surmise that the 'network of action' approach adopted to partnership formation facilitated the benefits gained, but that adopting such an approach is not sufficient. More local and contextual factors influenced the extent of the benefits and the sustainability of the network.