News from TDR Director, John Reeder

TDR news item
6 July 2017

At the annual June meeting of the Joint Coordinating Board ( JCB), Members had some special business. They approved the new 6-year strategy that will drive TDR’s work from 2018. This strategy calls for a greater focus on implementation research to increase access to health products and improve the effectiveness of proven interventions, particularly for the most vulnerable groups.

Credit: WHO/TDR/Dilani Logan

I’d like to explain some of the key features and the uniqueness of this strategy.

The Sustainable Development Goals provide an integrated framework that inspires and shapes TDR’s approach. Good health is only one of the 17 goals, but components of health can be found in all of them. Here is a table of the 9 SDGs to which TDR contributes, which illustrates the many types of partners we will be working with, who will come from fields such as the environment, agriculture, finance and education – not just health.

Building the science of solutions

TDR focuses its support on research and training that provides a solution within these areas. We do this by bringing together the three key elements you can see in this graphic.

This is TDR’s unique value you can’t get anywhere else – other organizations provide 1 or maybe 2 of these features, but only TDR brings it all together.

Let’s go through each of these.

Research support: This has traditionally been one of TDR’s core areas. We fund and provide technical support to research. What is changing is the type of research we fund, and in this strategy, we are focused on improving disease control, and increasing implementation of both new and proven interventions.

There are still too many people without access to critical healthcare services and treatments, and we believe that innovating delivery can dramatically and quickly improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

“There are still too many people without access to critical healthcare services and treatments, and we believe that innovating delivery can dramatically and quickly improve the lives of the most vulnerable.”

John Reeder, TDR Director

Our research will also investigate ways to increase the resiliency of these communities to the many health threats they face – due to where they live, their gender, and their educational and economic status.

Research capacity strengthening: This is another traditional TDR core area, and in this strategy we continue to focus on supporting countries to build a strong evidence base to their activities. We apply a multi-layered, systems approach that includes both individuals and institutions in disease-affected countries.

The support covers the development of training materials, the support for learning networks, degree programmes, workshops, and the refinement or expansion of research guidelines. We’re also innovating the format of training into online forms that can serve many more people than in the past, particularly those in low-resource settings.

Global engagement: This is the new spine to the 2 long-term stable cores. It is focused on speeding up and expanding global efforts to address diseases of poverty through research.

We will promote and support public/private partnerships (such as through research to increase access to the products they develop), increase and strengthen critical networks, and work to attract new funding and commitments for research that strengthen health systems and improve the health of the most vulnerable.

Bringing it all together for impact

All 3 core elements are linked like puzzle pieces – none work in isolation. A research project will also have some learning component, an educational workshop will lead to research, and contribute to building greater awareness and commitments from other organizations.

Community meeting reviewing climate change research evidence
Credit: WHO/TDR/Andy Craggs

Let me give you some examples of work recently initiated that show how research, capacity strengthening and global engagement come together for multiple benefits.

A new Caribbean network on vector-borne diseases was initiated by TDR just in time to be extremely useful in the Zika outbreak. The network is now developing a formal framework to share data on emerging infections such as dengue and Zika viruses, and develop research plans for improved surveillance, diagnosis and control, and has attracted further funding and partners.

African countries are addressing vulnerabilities brought about by climate change. Researchers from varied disciplines in health, environment and agriculture are working together with community members to document changes, identify mitigations and test new strategies to protect the health of people, and the animals and environment they depend on. At the same time, 59 young researchers received training and degrees as a result of the project, extending the research capacity in these countries.

“What is changing is the type of research we fund, and in this strategy, we are directly focused on improving disease control, and increasing implementation of both new and proven interventions.”

John Reeder, TDR Director

New community and environmentally-based approaches tested in Latin American countries are helping to reduce the burden of several diseases. Designed around Chagas disease and dengue, they are also impacting upon Zika virus and chikungunya transmission, since many of the strategies tested can be applied to diseases transmitted by other vectors. Government, community groups and researchers are testing and then scaling up approaches that reduce environmental burdens and disease transmission.

You can find more examples and details on our plan going forward in the full strategy document. We are enthusiastic and looking forward to working with many of you in the coming years.


For more information, contact:
Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289
E-mail: guthj@who.int

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