“Opportunities and Challenges of Operational Research Training in Population Health in India”

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

 by Shruti Murthy  

I. Background

Operational research (OR) is defined as an interdisciplinary branch of applied mathematics or formal science that uses advanced analytic methods to make better decisions or research that provides optimal solutions to complex decision-making.1,2 OR is defined as the use of systematic research techniques for program decision-making to achieve a specific outcome (WHO 2003).3-5 OR is also defined as the search for knowledge on interventions, strategies, or tools that can improve the quality, effectiveness, or coverage of programs in which the research is being done (Zachariah and colleagues 2009)”.4 Research producing practically usable knowledge which can improve program implementation regardless of the type of the research falls within the boundaries of OR. At a time when economic resources are scarce, the need for evidence is imminent to prioritize these scarce resources into public health areas which need them the most. This evidence is offered only by research which uses systematic techniques to demonstrate the optimal use of scarce resources. This is a need fulfilled undeniably by OR. Thus, OR in public health is the research into some or all aspects of conducting or operating a system, or a service, while treating the system as a live entity in its actual, real environment; thus differentiating itself from research under controlled conditions.6 It involves research components integrated with analytical methods in routine real-life situations to help improve public health interventions and programs.6, 7

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