Operational research is “research into strategies, interventions, tools or knowledge that can enhance the quality, coverage, effectiveness or performance of the health system or program in which the research is being conducted”. Locally relevant operational research is essential for national TB programs and improving research capacity in high burden settings is a priority.

Operational Research

TREAT TB strengthens in-country capacity to carry out operational research

Since its launch in 2008, TREAT TB has provided more than 150 health professionals in Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, and India with the training needed to conduct high-quality operational research independently. TREAT TB also supported a course to build capacity of 20 researchers in India to conduct systematic reviews and in the process, prioritize research activities. More than 45 manuscripts have been published and more than 40 abstracts have been presented by participants in TREAT TB supported training courses. In collaboration with TREAT TB partner organizations, The Union and Vital Strategies have also produced several free online educational resources including an interactive e-tool, Introduction to Operational Research, which provides health practitioners and researchers with a foundational overview of operational research concepts and practices. This e-tool is available for free on the TREAT TB website in both English and Spanish.

TREAT TB supports National Tuberculosis Program in The Philippines 

As part of a comprehensive package of technical assistance, TREAT TB is training public health professionals to conduct operational research on priority research questions related to MDR-TB. Abstracts produced by participants have been accepted for presentation at regional conferences and manuscripts are expected to be published shortly.

Operational research on the shorter treatment regimen for MDR-TB and other priority areas has the potential to provide key insights on programmatic and clinical management of patients with MDR-TB, improve TB-control, and strengthen the country’s capacity to successfully conduct operational research

Capacity Building for MDR-TB Control in Peru

In partnership with The Union and the National Tuberculosis Program (NTP) of the Peruvian Ministry of Health, TREAT TB carried out an OR course in Peru from September 2015 to September 2016. The course aimed to develop skills among NTP staff to conduct OR studies independently and generate evidence to improve TB control.

The course consisted of three five-day modules: “Developing a Research Protocol”; “Data Collection and Analysis”; and “Scientific Manuscript Writing.” Six participants successfully completed the course; their research focused on several important topics including programmatic management of pre-extensively drug-resistant TB (pre-XDR-TB) and TB treatment in children using second-line medication. In October 2017, course participants presented their findings at the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara, Mexico. Four manuscripts were published in 2018; three in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and one in Plos One. Importantly, results from these studies informed policy decisions in the country; for example, in August, 2018, an update to national guidelines introduced new TB drugs for the treatment of pre-XDR-TB, and results from one study were considered to support and strengthen the implementation of rapid tests for the diagnosis of multidrug-resistant TB.