Building research capacity in a regional Australian health service: a management strategy analysis
Research capacity building (RCB) can be challenging for health services, especially in non-metropolitan areas. This management analysis documents the RCB strategy recently initiated by Albury Wodonga Health (AWH), a large health service in regional Australia. AWH’s strategy addresses three steps believed to be crucial in planning effective RCB: an initial needs assessment, identification of clear success indicators and multi-level structural considerations. In particular, AWH’s strategy is based on current evidence pointing to the importance of external partnerships, the need for whole-of-organisation leadership, and the need to involve appropriate personnel. Early achievements of AWH’s strategy include Executive-endorsed organisational research priorities, wide awareness of RCB as a whole-of organisation goal, agreed protocols for initiating and reviewing research proposals, formalised university partnerships, the establishment of a vibrant Research Interest Group, a number of current and planned collaborative projects, improved communication about research activities within AWH, and a program logic and evaluation framework to assist in maintaining focus and assessing the effectiveness of the strategy over the longer term. AWH’s RCB strategy may serve as a modifiable model for managers of other similar health services pursuing a stronger research culture.