For the past several years, Dorothy Dow, M.D., MS-GH, has been testing and refining an idea. It’s a good one, a peer-led program that has proved effective at keeping teens on track with HIV treatment. An associate professor of pediatrics and global health, Dow has piloted the project in Moshi, Tanzania, where she studies ways to prevent HIV infection and transmission.
But how does a good idea become good policy? Many academic researchers feel ill-equipped to answer that question, leaving promising ideas stuck in a kind of implementation limbo.
“Too often, effective interventions don’t go beyond a pilot stage or survive beyond the life of the study grant,” says Dow. “They don’t have a plan for sustainability.”
Beginning in July, DGHI faculty will have an option to tap into expert guidance to navigate the space between idea and action. A team of policy experts has launched the Core for Advancing Policy Engagement (CAPE), which will help researchers develop strategies for turning academic research into policy.
“DGHI has a reputation for conducting groundbreaking research, but publication alone rarely moves the policy needle,” says Gavin Yamey, M.D., director of the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health (CPIGH) who is leading CAPE. “We want to help those important results be seen and acted on by policymakers.”
Similar to DGHI’s Research Design & Analysis Core, CAPE will operate like a consultancy, allowing researchers to work directly with Yamey’s team on all phases of a research project, from designing studies that are optimal for policy adoption to writing policy briefs to creating opportunities to engage with key decisionmakers about research findings.
During CAPE’s three-year pilot phase, the institute will fund the service with support from DGHI Director Chris Beyrer, M.D. After that, the goal is for researchers to write in support for policy engagement into external grants.
As one of CAPE’s first clients, Dow says engaging with DGHI’s policy team has been critical to finding ways to build her peer mentoring program in Tanzania. She has been working with Osondu Ogbuoji, M.B.B.S., ScD, an assistant research professor of global health and CPIGH’s deputy director, on ways to capture the attention of government officials and external funding agencies. She says Ogbuoji has helped her identify a “clear and succinct message” to sell the benefits of the program to potential funders.
“Writing policy briefs is a very different approach then writing a research manuscript, but arguably just as important,” she says.
Working with CAPE can help researchers expand those skills, Yamey says. At the same time, it expands their reach, bringing in the unique talents and connections of the institute’s policy experts.
“I’m not aware of anything like this at other universities. It’s a novel way to ensure that DGHI research has the widest impact possible,” Yamey says.
To discuss a project with CAPE, DGHI faculty should complete the request form on CAPE’s web page.