When they assess what is working in the health system, policy-makers need to know whether new guidelines or reforms are effective and what changes or improvements are needed. Operations research (OR) applies advanced analytical methods to support better decision-making: it helps ministries to improve policies and programme operations, and thus the population's health. However, policy-makers have recently been focusing more on results and outcomes and this was discussed at length at the 68th World Health Assembly. The implementation of guidelines or reforms is of crucial importance and hence the focus change to "Implementations research".
WHO/Europe and its partners developed a course on OR for experienced managers and researchers:
- to teach them to work together as OR teams;
- to familiarize them with two research techniques commonly used in eastern Europe and central Asia: field experiment and cost analysis;
- to improve their skills in writing project proposals; and
- to involve them in designing new programmes that would lead to the improvement of services in their countries.
WHO/Europe started training workshops on OR in the countries of central and eastern Europe in 2001, and conducted training for the Russian-speaking countries in the Region in 2003. Experience showed that it was important to build OR capacity in one institute that could become a centre of expertise, so Kaunas University of Medicine in Lithuania took up this task, supported and trained by WHO/Europe.
Further workshops were held for Russian-speaking countries in 2008 and 2009, and the Human Reproduction Programme – the main instrument in the United Nations system for research in human reproduction – earmarked funds to implement projects in countries with which WHO/Europe had biennial collaborative agreements on reproductive health. These were Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine in 2008, and Armenia, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in 2009.
WHO/Europe's partners in this project are the Population Council and Frontiers, and the courses are based on their material.