Creating an evidence base for palliative care through academic and operations research is critical to ensuring that palliative care services, advocacy and policy decision-making are underpinned by rigorous findings rather than anecdote.
This research base must originate from the continent itself, being reflective of the delivery environments and models, patient demographics (e.g. children as well as adults) and diagnostic groups, and the richly diverse cultural settings of Africa. Services should not use research findings (or the data collection tools used to derive them) from outside the continent in the belief that they will necessarily be easily transplanted to an African setting.
Currently, however, palliative care research on the continent is in its fledgling stages, characterised by the lack of a critical mass of researchers, as well as the necessary skills sets and infrastructure to generate the necessary research evidence. As such, the third strategic driver in APCA's strategic plan for 2011-20 promotes not only the development of an African-originated evidence base, but also the development of competent researchers who can undertake that research, analyse its results, and write up the findings for regional as well as international dissemination.
Central to advancing this research agenda at APCA is the African Palliative Care Research Network (APCRN) , a collaborative comparable to that created by the European Association of Palliative Care: i.e. a multi-country collaborative that will not only optimise the number of patients available for research, but importantly will also optimise palliative care and academic expertise from both resource-abundant countries and international experts and resource-deficient African countries in a sustainable way.
The evidence generated by the APCRN will, amongst other areas, cover the key domains of palliative care (i.e. clinical, psychological, social and spiritual care), as well as the cost-effectiveness of providing such services using differing models of service delivery.