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  • Reflections on how research programme consortia bring different cultures together and using STATA to research health financing in Sierra Leone

Reflections on how research programme consortia bring different cultures together and using STATA to research health financing in Sierra Leone

Sunday, 01 Sep 2013

By Rogers Amara, ReBUILD Researcher for the Sierra Leone team

I am currently in Edinburgh on a short training course in using STATA Version 12 (a data analysis and statistical software package) to analyse the Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey (SLIHS), a health survey data set conducted in Sierra Leone 2003/2011. It has been so interesting, though challenging to use STATA which is quite a technical system.

My trainer is fellow ReBUILD researcher Ijeoma Edoka from the UK team, who is usually based here at the Institute for International Health and Development, Queen Margaret University. Ijeoma consistently keeps her patience with me and whilst some issues with the software remain challenging, after perseverance, we are making good progress. As a health economics researcher (having previously lectured at Milton Margai College of Education in Sierra Leone), I joined the ReBUILD team in 2012. I am conducting a quantitative study in health financing in Sierra Leone with a view to understanding how different financing strategies have affected the poorest households.  

The civil war in Sierra Leone lasted for more than a decade, between 1991 and 2002. During the war, donor funding supported the health sector but with little central coordinating mechanisms to ensure accountability. No strategies were put in place to ensure the sustainability of health services and after the war, the exit of NGOs created significant pressure on the government to bridge the resource gaps that had been left.

Sierra Leone has a particularly high share of out-of-pocket expenditure in relation to total health spending at around 70% and around 50% of the population is excluded from health services altogether (further information is available in the National Health Sector Strategic Plan).

In 2010, the Government introduced a new package of free services for pregnant and lactating women and children under five. This package aims to reduce the financial burdens on households to pay for healthcare. My project will look at health financing packages both during and since the conflict period.

Here in Edinburgh it is not just the weather that is unpredictable. I attended a seminar last week which was enlightening, the presenter attempted to attract researchers in the use of tablets rather than questionnaires for data collection. I have reservations with some changes and fear that data may be lost if the electronic devices are not protected or have manufacturing defects. I am noticing many cultural differences to Sierra Leone, after the seminar I attended a staff party at the university. It was a pleasure to witness and very different from my country where very loud music is the order of the day. I am enjoying my time here, if not the weather!