The People, The Planet, The Can: Emerging lessons from policymakers’ perspective

[This post is part of an ongoing project of a book on project to study the challenges involved in communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This blog is the second from Shannon Kenny on “The People, The Planet, The Can: The social marketing and re-branding of breastmilk in South Africa” chapter.]

By Flickr user Gates Foundation (CC).

This post conveys one government Health policy maker’s insights on the relationship between policy-makers, researchers, communicators, media, and civil society. It reflects their opinion, rather than an official statement, on the government’s approaches to research uptake, policy implementation, and communication out of their own experience from working closely with researchers and introducing a number of policy reforms in the public sector.

Political support and commitment is not just helpful but vitally important for effective and timely policy implementation. That said, change does not happen over-night and wisely navigating the political landscape was a key strategy for the championing of specific research ideas that they felt needed to be implemented into policy. Working in a province such as the one in which they operate requires a steely resolve on the part of them and their colleagues, since there are no ‘small issues’ in an area with high levels of poverty and disease that ultimately affect the population as a whole.

On the other hand, the great need to improve the health and decrease the mortality and morbidity of a poverty-stricken population, they believe, has provided an opportunity for innovation and faster implementation of better policy. And where traditional approaches have been less effective or failed, they have had the opportunity to operate with more latitude and flexibility to take calculated risks.

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