16 Dec 2010

Imperial: new centre to translate health research through to application


A new centre that aims to turn health research into evidence-based policy innovations has been launched at Imperial College. The Centre for Health Policy, part of Imperial’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI), brings together academics, clinicians and policymakers, to tackle the strategic challenges involved in improving population health and health services around the world.

The Centre, a joint venture between the Faculty of Medicine and the Business School, will play a central role in fulfilling the IGHI’s remit to influence health policy. In addition to conducting research to inform innovation in health policy, the Centre will train the next generation of international health policymakers, offering fellowships, research degrees and short courses.

The Centre is co-directed by Ara Darzi, Chair of the IGHI, and Peter Smith, Professor of Health Policy in the Imperial College Business School. Professor Darzi served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the UK Department of Health from 2007 to 2009. He is also Chair of Global Agenda Council for Health in the World Economic Forum.

“My time as a minister taught me that policy-making and the delivery of healthcare needs to be elevated to a science, with an evidence base comparable to medicine,” Darzi said. “I was also struck by how international experience could be better shared and the need to professionalise health policy-making in part through formal education.”

Smith is currently involved in studies comparing different national health systems for the World Health Organisation, the European Commission and the UK Economic and Social Research Council. Collecting useful data on health system performance and making good use of those data is an important challenge for policymakers, he said. “One of the major difficulties faced by policymakers is the lack of a coherent framework within which to make policies, lack of evidence on the system-wide impact of pulling particular policy levers, and a lack of translatable evidence from other countries.”

Darzi and his colleagues recently developed a smartphone application, “Wellnote by Dr Darzi”, that allows users to rate the quality of healthcare services in England. “New technologies are making it possible to collect extensive data about health system performance, and not just in the west – mobile phone use in developing countries is shooting up as well,” Darzi said.

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