The Coalition for Health Research and Development (CHReaD) brings together civil society organisations, research institutions, academia, and the private sector to advocate for an enabling policy environment that promote research, innovation, and access to high-impact products and technologies in Kenya.
CHReaD has been instrumental in amalgamating efforts of local and international non-governmental organisations and research institutions to create awareness on the importance of increased investments and creation of worthwhile regulations that support Health Research Development and Innovation (HRD&I) efforts towards achieving Universal Health Coverage in Kenya, and other East African Countries.
Noting that strong regulatory systems for medicines and other health technologies are critical for assuring safety and quality of these health products, CHReaD engages in advocacy for alignment of regulatory policies within the East African context. The efforts towards strengthening regulatory systems and capacity stem from the commitments made by AU member states aimed at increasing Africa’s capacity for medical product development and approval in order to improve access to safe, effective and affordable medicines, vaccines, devices and diagnostics.
To catalyze action on health R&D through coordinated advocacy efforts to increase access to lifesaving products, technologies, and innovations.
CHReaD was formed in 2015 by a group of non-state actors, researchers and advocates having recognised the potential of advocacy to impact Kenya’s health innovation system. With each member organisation having rich history of advocating for improved health technologies, programs, and services—including HIV and tuberculosis, non-communicable diseases, maternal, newborn, and child health, CHReaD would enable all member organisations to achieve mutually shared goals that support the research and development of high-impact health technologies.
Through coordinated advocacy, the coalition was envisioned to underscore the importance of health Research and Development (R&D) in increasing access to lifesaving technologies across the health spectrum.
The coalition was initially hosted by PATH before a successful transition to Amref Health Africa in November 2020. In 2018, PATH initiated conversations with CHReaD members towards transitioning the coalition to a local partner organisation in Kenya. While members saw this as an opportunity for growth of the coalition, there were concerns that the coalition needed to strengthen its structure.
In 2019, a substantive discussion was held on the timelines for the transition, and on what local leadership would mean for the coalition. A five-member transition committee was selected to guide the process, develop transition documents including the selection criteria, evaluate and select the local host. Out of the rigorous process, Amref Health Africa was selected as the new host of the coalition.
As outlined in the sections above, CHReaD and PATH demonstrated significant gains at country level by contributing to major policy changes such as the first Kenya Research for Health Strategy and Policy Framework; the engagement with the Kenya National Research Fund (NRF) to increase funding for Global Health R&D; and advocacy for a one-stop and efficient mechanism for national regulation such as the proposed Kenya Food and Drug Authority.
At the regional level, CHReaD and PATH have contributed to the acceleration of regulatory harmonisation processes in the East African Community (EAC) by developing investment cases and demand creation for regulatory harmonisation from civil society organisations, Product Development Partnerships, private sector and key high-level champions.
While COVID-19 has highlighted the need for Kenya to invest in its national health innovation and surveillance systems, the post-COVID-19 economic crisis is likely to affect Kenya’s goal of investing 2% of its GDP into R&D. Nevertheless, COVID-19 has highlighted the need for efficient use of both national and international funding for Global Health Research and Development.
CHReaD prioritises the need for efficient regulatory systems at both national and regional levels and the need for efficient access platforms beyond COVID-19.
More importantly, it seeks to strengthen the coalition of local partners who have a track record in navigating community myths and misconceptions on science and health products, and who can effectively integrate human rights, gender and equity in their local contexts.
Health Research and Development is critical in addressing the challenges facing Kenya and other African Countries. In addition to enhanced economic growth and better social outcomes, domestic investment in R&D guarantees solutions that reflect a country’s most urgent health needs. Kenya and other African countries are faced with the increasing threat of emerging and reemerging disease outbreaks, which demand Health R&D for effective and fit-for-purpose medical products, including vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, and medical devices. CHReaD, therefore, prioritises increased investment in R&D, evidence-based policy change and implementation, and a streamlined regulatory system.
Through partnership, evidence generation, and accountability measures, the coalition aims to:
Meeting current funding commitments and ensuring the availability of resources for local innovators will help grow Kenya’s R&D sector and ensure that R&D priorities are locally generated. Specifically, at CHReaD, we are advocating for a 2% allocation of gross domestic product (GDP) to be allocated to R&D, as committed in the Science, Technology and Innovation Act of 2013.
Country regulation processes of health technologies and approval of health research have a direct impact on whether high-quality vaccines, devices, diagnostics and drugs are accessible to those who need them most. The East African Community (EAC) Medicines Regulatory Authority (MRH) initiative, to which Kenya is a signatory, promotes regional harmonisation of medicines registration. This initiative should also be prioritized as a model for sharing best practices and fast-tracking registration of medicines for priority diseases.
At CHReaD, we believe that in order to bolster innovation and improve health outcomes for citizens, governments must efficiently coordinate, oversee, and carry out medicines regulatory functions. The government of Kenya has demonstrated commitment to strengthening its regulatory environment and supporting the efficient evaluation of health technologies and clinical research. The government has developed a robust regulatory framework, which includes a number of regulatory agencies and research institutions, each overseen by various government ministries. Despite this progress, there are many bottlenecks in the regulation of health technologies and research clearance, as well as a duplication of roles in the government bodies involved. Regulatory agencies and research organisations are spread across ministries and are often governed by conflicting legislation. Their overlapping mandates can lead to confusion for researchers and innovators attempting to navigate the system, and coordination mechanisms between government bodies involved in licensing are limited.
This is a critical step in promoting evidence-based decision making through data, and accelerating the discovery and invention of new health technologies. The coalition also supports efforts to increase collaboration between researchers and incentivize health R&D activities.
COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO). Thanks to unprecedented collaboration, the public health community has made significant progress since then – including rapid development of tests, treatments, and vaccines against the virus. While these collective achievements deserve to be celebrated, there are serious challenges of vaccine equity, and access currently affecting low and middle income countries (LMICs), including the EAC region.
These challenges are compounded by vaccine hesitancy among communities across the region as a result of misconceptions and myths fueled by misinformation. The aforementioned, together with other challenges and existing gaps in health research development and innovation space, call for concerted efforts by different stakeholders to scale up advocacy efforts for demand generation, adoption of policies and practices on product introduction and equitable access to COVID-19 tools/health products in Eastern Africa.
Under this strategic objective, we focus on the following:
– Building political support and community preparedness for COVID-19 tools in Eastern Africa.
– Accelerating harmonisation of regulatory processes, joint reviews/procurements mechanisms for COVID-19 tools in Eastern Africa
– Increasing domestic and regional investment in intentional policies and practices on equitable access to COVID-19 tools in Eastern Africa
CHReaD works in collaboration with various CSOs, coalitions, research institutions, and other relevant agencies within the EAC region in promoting demand generation for COVID-19 tools, and advocate for increased adoption of policies and practices on introduction of, and equitable access to COVID-19 tools and health products in Eastern Africa.
The Coalition draws its membership from non-state actors, academia, private sector and research institutions among other players within the health sector. The member organisations are: Amref Health Africa, PATH, BasicNeeds, NOPE, Ripples International, Villgro Africa, IAVI, Movement of Men against AIDS in Kenya, The Scinnovent Centre, Kenya Progressive Nurses Association, KEMRI, ICRH, DIABETES KENYA, Waci Health, NEPHAK, APHRC, Advocacy Accelerator, STOP TB Partnerships, KANCO, Health Development Innovations, DNDi, ACHESREM, KELIN, Afya Research Africa, Women Plus, Concern Worldwide, Medecins Sans Frontieres, AU ECOSOCC, KITAM, ACCESS TO MEDICINES PLATFORM, LVCT, Malteser International, DSW, The Viwanda Africa Group, and E&K Consulting.
To manage the coalition, a functional Secretariat has been put in place by Amref Health Africa to run the day to day CHReaD activities.
Benefits of the R&D Coalition
To join CHReaD, an institution must be registered, legal entity that is interested in health R&D. Additionally: