HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL HEALTH RESEARCH AUTHORITY

While there has been increases in the number of researches in health at international and local levels, Zambia lacked a legal framework for the conduct of health research. Being aware of this gap, several efforts towards filling this gap were made laying the foundation on which all future plans were built. In the late 2000s, the Ministry of health constituted the National Health Research Advisory Committee to brainstorm and plan for the management of health research in the country.

The Ministry of Health accepted the recommendations of the National Health Research Advisory Committee (NHRAC) of setting up such a Body that would coordinate and manage health research in the country but due to lack of resources, these recommendations did not proceed into action until 2009 when the Ministry lobbied and received support from the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research (CCGHR). This was both financial and technical assistance. Notably from CCGHR were three colleagues (Prof. Vic Neufield, Mr. Alexander Campbell and Mr. Cole Dodge) who worked with a Zambian team of strong and visionary citizens under the able leadership of the Ministry of Health, through Director of Public Health & Research, Dr. Victor Mukonka at that time.

With CCGHR’s financial support, committees and technical working groups were formed and a series of important milestones covered including the hiring of two young ladies who played the role of secretariat for the National Health Research Advisory Committee and its Technical Working Group, and the National Health Research Ethics Committee. The recommendations of the National Health Research Advisory Committee were that Zambia needed a health research body responsible for stewardship, financing, creating and sustaining resources, setting priorities and producing and using research results for knowledge translation to inform policy. Through the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research’s support, and indeed the Ministry’s, the NHRAC’s Technical Working Group and the National Health Research Ethics Committee tirelessly worked to define the structure and functions of such a body, using the Visualization in Participatory Processes methodology.

The years 2010 to 2012 were characterized by high impact meetings whose results saw the drafting the National Health Research Bill which proposed the creation of the Research Authority we are launching today, a body that would be responsible for stewardship, financing, creating and sustaining resources, setting priorities and producing and using research for knowledge translation to inform policy. In March 2013, the National Health Research Bill was enacted and became the National Health Research Act No. 2 of 2013. The Ministry in 2014 advocated for government support for Statutory Bodies through Ministry of Finance and with the strong political will, this became a reality in the year 2015.

The National Health Research Authority Council (NHRAC) was appointed through the Office of the Hon. Minister of Health as provided for in the National Health Research Act No. 2 of 2013. The Council then appointed the National Health Research Ethics Board which it inducted in June 2017. From its inception, the Council with support from the Ministry of Health worked towards the institutionalization of the National Health Research Authority. The structure and its job descriptions were developed with assistance from Management Development Division and these were approved by Cabinet Office in 2016.

Informed by the Ministry on the grant of treasury authority in April 2017, the Council prioritized the recruitment of the Director and Chief Executive Officer who assumed office on 2nd October 2017 and is being supported by officers attached to the Authority by the Ministry of Health and Global Health Corps.