Knowledge translation into policy is not automatic, it is political: Dr Binayak Sen

Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant, CNS
"Translation of knowledge into policy is not automatic. It is a political process" said Dr Binayak Sen, a recipient of prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights in 2008. He spoke to Citizen News Service (CNS) at 22nd Cochrane Colloquium in Hyderabad, India, and remarked that "technical advancements in informatics and processing of information and the impulse towards democratization of knowledge structures have come together at this Colloquium. Coming together of these two processes will create an impulse for genuine democratization of medical knowledge. We are looking forward to the day when everybody will be able to access all the medical knowledge in the world. At least there should be no barrier for people who want to access knowledge from medical system."

Dr Binayak Sen is a noted paediatrician, senior health activist and Vice President of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). He added: "We need to distinguish between state-based policy making and making information openly available. State-based policy making is once again the bureaucratization of decision making process. Genuine potential of this process of democratization will not be reached unless we are able to proceed beyond this bureaucratization to a process where knowledge becomes people-oriented, people-based, owned by the people and used by the people too."

Dr Sen paid his homage to another crusader for online information democracy: Aaron Swartz. "He committed suicide at 26 because he was hounded for his efforts for democratization of knowledge" said Dr Sen.

Dr Sen is seeing hope with Wikipaedia and Cochrane collaboration: "Most important learning for me at this Colloquium is the connection between gathering and information collection systems and processes of information dissemination. Wikipaedia and Cochrane Collaboration and use of social media at this Colloquium needs a particular mention. These are both important and exciting developments."

 Dr Sen added: "Malnutrition is an important established priority and important facet of our health scenario. Children’s malnutrition has come in discourses, but hunger has not got its due attention. 40% of our population is suffering from chronic hunger and suffering from the affects of chronic malnutrition. There is an award winning article that has just come in National Medical Journal of India, on association between tuberculosis and malnutrition. Lead author Anurag Bhargava and his colleagues did research on linkage of malnutrition and tuberculosis, and found that more than half of TB incidence in this country is due to effects of malnutrition. When we are not able to prioritise issues such as malnutrition in our policies, we need to ask in which way the knowledge flow is going?"

He also said that lot was left unsaid on roadblocks to knowledge translation. He said that a plenary speaker at this Colloquium, Dr Srinath Reddy, should have mentioned about the fate of a report he did as the chair of a high level expert group on universalization of healthcare. Planning Commission has been bundled up by the current Prime Minister, but previously the Commission had set up a high level expert group on universalization of healthcare, of which Dr Reddy was the chair. Montek Singh Ahluwalia was then vice chair of Planning Commission who said when presented with this report that he did not have the resources to implement those recommendations. "We should have had some reference to this issue in plenary which was talking about the effects of evidence  in decision making. This reference would have illuminated the importance of information and limitations of information too."

Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant
Citizen News Service (CNS)
26 September 2014