The Youth and The Health Research Journey

“I have only one plea – please stay.”

These were the words of rural sociologist and National Scientist Dr. Gelia Castillo in a panel I moderated entitled “Journeys in Research and Innovation: Lessons from Health Leaders” during the New Leaders for Health (NL4H) Pre-Forum last August 22-24, 2015 at the Philippine International Convention Center. The Pre-Forum, which aimed to retool new leaders and reimagine global health, is dedicated to the Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health (also called Forum 2015) hosted by the Government of the Philippines.

At 87, Dr. Castillo still goes to her office at the International Rice Research Institute in the University of the Philippines Los Banos, and writes her thoughts and findings on a yellow pad to be later encoded by an assistant on a computer which she never learned how to use.

She may not be a health professional, but for decades, Dr. Castillo has been a champion of health research and development here in the Philippines and around the world. In 1990, she served as the deputy chair of the Commission on Health Research for Development, which called the attention of the global health and scientific community to the problem of the ‘10/90 gap’ – that only 10% of the world’s funding for health research goes to countries having 90% of the global disease burden.

Today, the situation is different. More money for health research and innovation now exists in low- and middle-income countries, with some developing countries like the Philippines already beginning to generate domestic resources without relying on external support. However, for sustaining a vigorous research and innovation culture in a country, financial resources is just one of the many ingredients.

For instance, during the Pre-Forum, new leaders raised their numerous concerns – lack of enough institutions to absorb emerging researchers, limited opportunities for post-graduate education and further career development, need for mentors and peer networks, low salaries and uncertain long-term job prospects for young research assistants, among others. Some of these issues were also captured in another panel on the future of health systems research during the Pre-Forum.

In order to follow-up on the discussions that were launched during the Pre-Forum and Forum 2015, #HealthXPh and #NewLeaders4Health has jointly organized a tweetchat to answer the question “How can we make health researchers stay?”

Here are the three specific questions that we wish to examine during our tweetchat will be held on Saturday, September 26, 9 PM Philippine time/9 AM EST:

T1- What are the challenges faced by emerging health researchers today?
T2- How can we improve national health research systems to support & encourage emerging researchers?
T3- What opportunities do exist to support the youth in their budding journeys in health research?

We invite everyone to join us in this conversation and together chart the future of health research and innovation in the Philippines. There is no better place to start transforming global health but at home. This time, let’s make sure that we do not lose anymore our #NewLeaders4Health – and that they stay in our country as they harness research and innovation to improve health for all.

Let’s use the two hashtags #HealthXPh and #NewLeaders4Health to create an online pandemic of hope for the Philippines and the rest of the global community of health research and innovation!

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