19 July 2009

Programme Managers Learn To Improve Quality of Care Through OR

As part of its professional development efforts, the IAS brought together HIV programme managers for a two-day pre-conference workshop to learn how to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of service delivery through operations research (OR). Twenty-five managers from 19 different countries -- including 17 in Africa -- participated in the session.

Presentations from leading faculty members – Dr. George Schmid (WHO/CDC), Dr. Tony Harries (International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease) and Dr. Rony Zachariah (Médecins Sans Frontières) – gave participants an overview of OR, demystifying the concept and the processes involved in it. As Dr. Schmid remarked, "OR does not have to be complex to be effective."

The global economic climate has stimulated further interest in OR as a way to improve the efficiency of HIV programmes. The session emphasized that effective OR need not be expensive. For example, it presented case studies from Malawi showing how small research grants of US$450-1,800 to study programmes to scale up treatment and better manage TB yielded results that influenced national policy and changed practice.

On a visit to the Khayelitsha HIV-TB clinic, participants met with staff from MSF and saw first-hand how OR could be used to improve care in a resource-poor setting. The example of integrating OR into a busy primary care delivery site demolished the naïve but too-common conception that research cannot be a routine part of health care programmes.

Dr. Harries advised participants to be strategic in conducting research by getting stakeholders involved from the start, building partnerships, and being pragmatic in their choice of research questions. It is also important to provide "bits of information" that can be digested by decision makers. The workshop also emphasized the need to publish research and disseminate findings at meetings and conferences, and to integrate scientific writing and publishing skills into capacity-building initiatives.

As a pilot project, this IAS Professional Development Programme benefitted from a partnership with the WHO Department of HIV/AIDS, WHO Tropical Diseases Research, The Global Fund, The Lung Union and MSF.

The IAS 2009 conference is featuring a new track on operations research, which is intended to further emphasize one of the defining characteristics of the meeting: examining how scientific advances can be translated into practical interventions that respond to current challenges in HIV prevention, treatment and care, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. On Sunday, the IAS and the Lung Union are hosting a satellite session on OR -- Learning by Doing? Operational Research to Strengthen HIV Prevention, Care and Treatment Scale-up in Resource-Limited Settings: What, Why and How? On Wednesday, a plenary presentation by Gerald Friedland will address Advances in Operations Research Addressing the Convergent HIV and TB Epidemics.

Update from Gurmit Singh (3 August 2009):

George Schmid and his rapporteur team's Operations Research Track D reports are now available here.

Check them out and see if the lessons learnt from this research presented could help you with developing your OR protocols.


  1. Hi Gurmit!

    I just wanted to write and let you know how wonderful the workshop was, the smooth logistics, the trip to the clinic, the lunchtime chats, etc. It was a great experience that allowed for collaborations to be built with other researchers around the world.

    Tony, Rony, and George were a wealth of information and great instructors. Please pass my thank you on to them!

    All of you made for a great experience!

    Thank you so much,

    Kathy Hageman

  2. The course was an excellent beginning to what promises to be a long-running exercise at the IAS meeting. The course was extremely well-organized and the faculty were fantastic.

    You have accomplished the goals of both teaching us and motivating us to do more and better operations research.

    Thanks to Gurmit and Nadia, and to all the faculty and other course attendees!

    Mary Pat Kieffer

  3. I want to thank very experienced instructors of the program George, Rony and Tony for much new information and also want to thank Gurmit and Nadia for excellent organization of the process!
    I got many practical and useful examples of OR from program and conference to apply them in my work.
    Thank you very much!
    Aizhan Dooronbekova

  4. Operations research is currently defined as "the use of systematic research techniques for program decision-making to make a specific outcome". Its results are important to make program decisions, publication itself alone is not a valid indicator of a successful OR. Although such definition seems complex, I would like to state how simple and clear were these concepts explained in the OR Workshop held by IAS in Cape Town´s conference. The faculty and mentoring were great and the field visit gave us an opportunity to learn from the practice and from leading experts. It was really an honor to interact with such prestigious faculty and with outstandig colleagues from around the world. I learnt a lot of new information in a very practical way that will allow me improve my projects.
    I would also like to thank Gurmit, Nadia and all the Educational Programme for such outstandig opportunity and great organizaton!
    I hope we all keep in touch in order to see how we advance with our OR projects.
    All the best,

    Diego Cecchini, MD, PhD, Argentina

  5. Hi guys,

    Thanks for giving us the opportunity to participate in the professional development program. It is the way to go especially for us working in projects. Sometimes things are not going well and we simply don't know where to start. But if we ask a question and develop a proposal to answer this question and put to use the information we get from the data collected, then we move a step ahead.

    Thanks for the insight. I guess I did not know how to ask the question. No actually I did but I did really think of going ahead to develop a proposal, collect data and analyze and translate it into action.

    Thanks to the facilitators and instructors.

    We shall be informing you of the progress.

    Peace Imani
    PS: Guess what! Steven Lewis was in Uganda on early this week visiting one of the partners supported by the organization I work for, I was privileged to meet with him and discuss the work that we do and got to know more about the Steven Lewis foundation that supports many other organizations in Uganda. He is a man with a big heart. The foundation supports HIV infected orphans and their grandmothers.

  6. Proffesional Development Programme was outstanding opportunity to learn a lot of useful things and met very interesting people.Information obtained during the workshop and conference is extremely important and applicable in my work.

    Huge thanks to the faculty, Gurmit and Nadiya

    Marta Vasylyev

  7. Last week I gave a speech in the infectious diseases and HIV unit of my hospital about IAS 2009 Conference with a focus on operations research. My colleagues found that OR is a very interesting approach for most of the problems that we are facing in treating and doing the follow up of our HIV+ patients. I hope we could widespread OR knowledge for further implementation. Diego Cecchini, Argentina

  8. Hello everyone,

    The webpage on the OR workshop is now ready at:

    All the slides from the presentations can be downloaded there.


  9. HI guys, It was great being part of the OR workshop. I am using every opportunity to advocate for OR. Malawi is working on submitting a National strategy application for the Global Fund and I made sure OR is included. What weneed is to also monitor the use. Let's keep the fire burning

  10. Hi new friends! I´ve just seen the photos from the workshop! Great job Gurmit! I´ve also have good news: part of my OR research of HIV resistance test in pregnancy was selected as oral abstract in our National AIDS Conference in Argentina, we had great impact! Hope we can continue with this OR scale up...

  11. Hi everyone, i am strongly convinced that the OR workshop provided new insight on how to conduct OR with desirable impact in our settings. Meeting with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and the experts ( Tony, Rony, George and the guest speakers like Bruno), realy was inspiring. Thanks to IAS and the partners to make it happen, and to Gurmit and Nadia for taking care of the logistics.
    Visting the Khayelitsha HIV-TB clinic was a great opportunity to have a look on how OR is implemented at the ground.I hope wecontinue conducting OR at our work places and advocate for it.
    Kind regards
    Albino Kalolo,MD
    Newala, Tanzania

  12. Hi guys, sorry I have been quiet. I hve enrolled at the university of Washington Seattle for an MPH-Epidemiology (Global Health track) and have been busy settling and doing all the registration. I would also like to inform you that my work from the OR proposal I submitted to IAS (Factors hindering access to paediatric HIV care done at IRCU-funded sites (NGO where I was working in Uganda) was accepted for oral presentation at the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care in New Orleans Nov 2009. I am trying to work around my schedule to attend this but I don't knwo if I will make it. My scedule is so tight.

    How is everyone doing?

    Peace Imani