Health research is indispensable for improving health and health equity and contributing to overall development. Many developing countries have made substantial investments in building and enhancing their capacities for research in health and related fields, and these efforts have been supported and extended by programmes of development agencies and research institutions located in high-income countries. Activities have included the education and advanced training of
individuals. In parallel, investments have been made in establishing and equipping high quality education, training and research centres in developing countries.
Despite decades of such efforts, and notwithstanding some notable examples of success, the overall picture of progress is a mixed one. Too often, the investments have failed to result in significant impact on health policies and practices in countries and concomitantly there has been an overall failure to see the desired levels of improvements in the health of the targeted population.
This publication reviews the literature and surveys the successes and failures of research capacity strengthening in the health field, in the context of its potential to contribute to health, development and equity. It points very clearly to the need for all stakeholders in the field - funders, producers, users and beneficiaries of health research - to be organized into a health research system in which the resources, drivers and priorities are aligned to produce results that are needed, valued and utilized.