The Global Health Research Accelerator has been set up by The Global Health Network and the University of Oxford as a social enterprise that is able to access funds and seek support for the work that happens within The Global Health Network. We need to ensure that all the training, support and guidance is available for free for those who would not otherwise be able to access these valuable skills and resources. One approach is to create a mechanism for those who can afford to pay to do so, thereby enabling their support working to help secure free access for their colleagues elsewhere in the world. 

The Global Health Network is also working in partnership with many organisations to develop training materials, disseminate their know-how research processes and methods. The Global Health Accelerator serves to support the contracts to deliver this work through The Global Health Network. The Global Health Research Accelerator is a Community Interest UK registered company. This is a social enterprise which is set up so that the funds flow back to support The Global Health Network and Global Health research projects in low-resource settings.

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Health research is essential for tackling diseases, as we are seeing now only too clearly within this global pandemic. We need to really understand the illness that a disease causes, we need to find and test potential treatments and vaccines. We also need to understand how to prevent and reduce the impact through public health interventions within communities. Being able to diagnose and quantify the burden is also fundamentally important. All these types of research are needed for early deaths to be avoided from any disease in any community.

However, it is a stark fact that currently 90% of health research just benefits 10% of the global population because the vast majority of health research is being undertaken to develop treatments for chronic diseases that mostly impact the wealthy northern hemisphere. People in low-resource countries are missing out with very little evidence being generated to tackle diseases of poverty.  This lack of equity is specifically highlighted during outbreaks and we are experiencing this now with COVID-19 where less than 1% of studies are being led in Africa for example.

In novel outbreaks, such as COVID-19 and also with Zika and Ebola, we do not have treatments or vaccines and do not understand transmission or the character of the infection. We need all the answers at once and so this requires many researchers such as geneticists, vector biologists, microbiologists, social scientists and epidemiologists. All need skills and capabilities that are common to design, operate and report quality data. Often these outbreaks occur in regions with low research experience. Dropping these skills in when a new outbreak happens is not the solution and so we need to build in this ecosystem of research capabilities to tackle the everyday diseases of poverty thus creating the local ability to respond and undertake research in outbreaks.

Building the ability to undertake research in the poorest regions of the world would not just help those communities tackle the every-day disease burdens that they face. In addition, we benefit globally because should another novel pathogen emerge, and there will be further new outbreaks like COVID-19, then we will be better prepared to get to understand that new infection as quickly as possible, wherever and whenever one might next appear.

The Global Health Research Accelerator is a social enterprise that has been set up to provide a sustainable income for The Global Health Network. The aim of The Global Health Network is to support, enable, guide and enhance research in low-resource settings and does so by providing open and free access to research tools, resources, guidance and training to health workers, research teams and laboratory staff.  We work within the regions, running programmes with local partners and we make all our resources available online. These high-quality resources, training courses, tools, template and guidance documents are enabling many thousands of healthcare workers in every setting to undertake the same international standard research. Ability to conduct research should be globally equitable and there should also be equity in who benefits from health research.  

Over 1.4 million online research skills courses have been taken and over 300,000 protocols, templates and guidance documents have been downloaded by many hundreds of thousands of research staff and health workers from across the globe. This high, sustained and widespread use supports the quality and reputation of The Global Health Network as a place to find training, guidance and support for teams whatever the disease, their role or type of organisation. We want to ensure that this access to international standard research training, tools and guidance will always be free, open and barrier-free to access.  

Working closely within partnerships across Africa, Asia and Latin America we gather data to understand what skills gap there are locally and then work with these teams to deliver these capabilities. This is enabling the generation of new evidence that is driving improvements in local health outcomes. This approach of teaching research skills and embedding health research within healthcare delivery is novel and very impactful. This is supportive, enabling and locally empowering, our aim is to guide the development of lasting research skills that take local health workers forward in their careers so they can become independent researchers who can compete internationally for grants and publications. This is long-term strategic work but it is of immense value. We have been running this programme for over 10 years and are seeing  and measuring remarkable successes.  We seek support to help this grow and deliver even wider impact for the next 10 years. 

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