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Realist research: working session with University of Montreal and McGill University, 11-18 September 2015, Geneva

11 September 2015

Policy dialogue and national health planning are cross-cutting, overarching issues which affect different areas of the health system in different ways; attribution of Partnership-led activities to specific results can be difficult.  Considering this challenge, a brainstorming session between WHO and the Alliance for Health Policies and Systems Research (AHPSR) was held in July 2015 to examine the ‘realist evaluation’ method to examine whether it could help WHO better discern how the Partnership’s work influences policy and planning processes in target countries.

Realist evaluation seeks to identify the underlying mechanisms which explain how the observed phenomena or outcomes were produced and the influence of context on these mechanisms.  As countries are engaged in a continuous planning cycle, the results of these assessments will inform improved models of policy dialogue and national health planning in the future.

A follow up activity to the July meeting was a working session from 11-18 September 2015 in Geneva with realist researchers from the University of Montreal and McGill University.  WHO-UHC Partnership staff and the Canada-based researchers worked out a theoretical framework within the realist evaluation approach to apply to a pilot country; selection of the pilot country and field work will commence soon.