Spotlight on Leaders in Global Health: Dr. Francisco Becerra-Posada

How Evidence-Based Research Can Improve Global Health (For Spanish Version)

By Francisco Becerra-Posada, MD, DrPH, MPH      

Research plays a critical role in almost every field. In the areas of health care, public policy and global health, research brings vital new knowledge and innovations. It also supports decision-making, but only if the research-based evidence is used.

Evidence is key in making decisions that help sustain the health of nations and the populations within. But how do we generate useful, evidence-based research? It starts at the moment a researcher – individually or with a team – defines a question and prepares a protocol. Researchers should consider the potential impact of the results. He or she should have a clear vision of how the evidence could potentially improve, change or innovate policymaking.

Accountability and transparency in research are more important than ever. Not only to disclose funding and use of generated evidence in successful research protocols, but also to show the failures and potential complications of new drugs in clinical trials, a topic widely debated in the scientific community.

For those of us using the results, how do we find what we’re looking for? With more than 42,500 scientific journals (33,100 in English and the rest in other languages) producing more than 29 million citations of biomedical literature and close to 20 million citations to full text articles in PubMed¹, it might feel like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Narrowing it down by category facilitates the searching, but still leaves lots of information to cull through.

Another consideration, what are both sides (researchers and policymakers) doing with the results of all this research? Are the results what policymakers need? Did both sides discuss the problem or develop a research question together?

Researchers and policymakers can look for connections passively or proactively²:

  1. Researchers could push their results to the policymakers who might use them. In this case, the researchers are active, and the users are passive.
  2. Policymakers and clinicians could pull the evidence they need to implement policies or treat patients. In this case, researchers are passive while users take a more active role.
  3. Or the two sides could come together, discuss the problem, develop a research question and, if possible, co-participate in the research, elevating the stakes for use of the generated evidence.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) era opens possibilities for this third option – an exchange model – as we work to find evidence that can help countries achieve SDG targets in poverty, health and education, inequality and climate change. This helps direct research to reduce inequalities and ensure no one is left behind.


1 Dickersin, K. Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health Magazine, Spring 2019. Found at Accessed 2.19.2019

2 Oxman, A. and Hanney, S. SUPPORT Tools for evidence-informed health Policymaking (STP), Health Research Policy and Systems, Vol 7 Suppl 1, 16 December 2009. Found at Accessed 2.19.2019

Dr. Becerra-Posada is an international leader and advisor in global health with more than 34 years of executive experience in public health, health management and health policy. He is an expert in research and management methodologies and strategies to strengthen health systems, achieve worldwide Universal Health Coverage and implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most recently, he was assistant director for the Pan American World Health Organization/World Health Organization. His background includes Director General of Health Services of the State of Morelos, Mexico and Director for Academic Agreement and Dissemination of the National Coordination Office of Mexico’s National Institutes of Health. Dr. Becerra-Posada received his MD from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, his MPH from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and his DrPH from Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health.  

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