When Gambian Health Minister, Ahmadou Samateh departed Boston after the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Forum last June, he was eager to begin implementing his newly developed legacy goal to reduce the maternal mortality ratio from 422 to less than 200 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2021. Once he returned however, he found that there were certain knowledge gaps that were limiting his ability to make informed decisions about how to proceed as efficiently and effectively as possible. Remembering that policy research is one of the post-Harvard support options offered by the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program, he submitted a policy proposal to better understand the social determinants that have the greatest impact on maternal mortality in the Gambia in the hopes that this research would allow him to more appropriately identify policies and programs to address the root causes of maternal mortality, and catalyze progress towards achieving his legacy goal.
Minister Samateh is one of 18 Ministers who subsequent to the Harvard Ministerial Forum last June submitted one or more policy research proposals to help inform implementation of their legacy goals. Students from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Kennedy School as well as the School of Graduate Education were invited to sign-up to be part of a research team for each topic. Eighty-one Harvard graduate students have been matched to 21 proposals across 12 countries and have begun conducting remote research in partnership with their Ministry liaisons. In January, fifty of these students will travel in-country to further supplement their research through focus groups, stakeholder interviews, and discussions with government Ministry officials with the goal of ultimately providing each Ministry with a final policy report of tangible recommendations that can be used to support achievement of Minister’s legacy goals.