BACKGROUND : A functional national health research system (NHRS) is crucial in strengthening a country’s health
system to promote, restore and maintain the health status of its population. Progress towards the goal of
universal health coverage in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda will be difficult for African
countries without strengthening of their NHRS to yield the required evidence for decision-making. This study
aims to develop a barometer to facilitate monitoring of the development and performance of NHRSs in the
African Region of WHO.
METHODS : The African national health research systems barometer algorithm was developed in response to a
recommendation of the African Advisory Committee for Health Research and Development of WHO. Survey
data collected from all the 47 Member States in the WHO African Region using a questionnaire were entered
into an Excel spreadsheet and analysed. The barometer scores for each country were calculated and the
performance interpreted according to a set of values ranging from 0% to 100%.
RESULTS : The overall NHRS barometer score for the African Region was 42%, which is below the average of
50%. Among the 47 countries, the average NHRS performance was less than 20% in 10 countries, 20–40% in
11 countries, 41–60% in 16 countries, 61–80% in nine countries, and over 80% in one country. The
performance of NHRSs in 30 (64%) countries was below 50%.
CONCLUSION : An African NHRS barometer with four functions and 17 sub-functions was developed to identify
the gaps in and facilitate monitoring of NHRS development and performance. The NHRS scores for the
individual sub-functions can guide policymakers to locate sources of poor performance and to design
interventions to address them.