Annual Meeting for 2023 Brings Together 185+ Researchers from across Africa

“We are very proud of you,” said Dr. Cheikh Faye, project director of Countdown to 2030 and head of the West African regional office for the African Population and Health Research Center, addressing the group of more than 185 researchers from 22 countries gathered for the project’s annual meeting in Dakar, Senegal. Dr. Faye cited the tremendous work completed since last year’s annual meeting, both at the country level and globally.

The goals for this year’s annual meeting were to produce updated estimates and analysis, strengthen analytical capacity to do this, and work together to lay the groundwork for uptake and use of data at the country level, noted Peter Hansen of the Global Financing Facility. The meeting was held June 19 – 23, 2023, at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi, APHRC’s executive director, shared that the significance of the Countdown to 2030 initiative is in the approach, its intended impact, and its focus on building capacities within countries and being able to make connection between academic institutions, research institutions and policymakers in government.

“That is very significant because a lot of evidence that is generated might have no value if it is not connected to people who make decisions in terms of policy,” Dr. Kyobutungi said. “That’s what I find most significant, that we have been able to build teams and build relationship and bridges between academia and policymaking in how governments can analyze their own data, understand it interpret it, contextualize it and then see what does it mean when it comes to investment and programs for women, children and adolescents.”

Through this approach, Countdown has evolved from just a grant to a movement with a network of 21 academic institutions and a platform for researchers, with more and more government participants  joining in, said Pamela Rao, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s focal person for the Global Financing Facility.

“The capacity of Countdown to 2030 has improved over time as evidenced in the impressive quality of work like the  posters coming from this network of researchers,” Ms. Rao said. “The academic and research institutions are contributing more to government policies and decisions, and donors research questions. There is a tendency for monitoring and evaluation people to be in their own little ecosystem without making connection with decision and policymakers. In the value chain of data collection to data use, the next phase for Countdown to 2030 should emphasize on data use and be able to track that.”

In Ethiopia, the Countdown to 2030 are being used to inform Ministry of Health’s planning, said Shegaw Mulu of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute.

“Initiatives and interventions are designed based on evidence, so the evidence generated from Countdown to 2030 are really important, and the Ministry is referencing them,” Mulu said “More and more questions are coming from program people in the Health Ministry so that the ministry can make decisions based on evidence generated by Countdown to 2030.” (More information about Countdown’s work in Ethiopia is available on the country page or data uptake series brief.)

Dr. Hansen described the three main opportunities for Countdown’s work in the next three years as: 1) better aligning the frequency of reporting with real world decision-making, 2) strengthening analysis with regard to gender and equity, and  3) understanding how key health systems reforms are contributing to other health outcomes.

Dr. Ties Boerma, a professor at the University of Manitoba and Countdown’s former project director, said that key analytical challenges the project will address in the next three years are developing a better understanding of subnational inequalities, calculating more complex indicators such as zero-dose immunization and antenatal care quality, and developing more sophisticated methods for integrating facility and survey data.

To learn more about Countdown’s analysis workshops, see this short video.