Charity has collated nearly 200 coronavirus-related research papers to provide crucial knowledge for decision-makers

A UK-based charity that has collated and translated nearly 200 coronavirus-related research papers to aid clinicians and policymakers around the world in developing countries has urged governments and the UN to fund its work.

Evidence Aid was established after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami which is thought to have killed more than 200,000 people.

Starting at the beginning of March it has published summaries of nearly 200 papers related to COVID-19 – each translated into one or more of seven languages. Although many are useful across the world, they are intended particularly to benefit low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Such nations often have healthcare systems more vulnerable to health disasters like COVID-19, while language barriers and resource issues hamper access to research largely produced in the United States and the UK and published in English.

The summaries are written by around 60 international volunteers (including professors, doctors, nurses, medical writers, PhD students and undergraduates) and then quality checked by a panel of experts before being published in a freely available collection.

Although many of the studies collated on the website focus on epidemiology and the search for medicines and a vaccine, the repository ranges much more widely. Studies summarised and translated on the open access website range from infection prevention and control (including for healthcare workers) to social issues such as the impact of lockdown on children and levels of domestic violence.

New research into COVID-19 is needed and vast amounts of money are being spent on producing it. But there is also an urgent need to ensure that governments and health systems around the world know about evidence relevant to COVID-19 that already exists. Evidence Aid and its partners suggest that we could prevent wasted resources and the implementation of potentially harmful strategies if governments, medical research bodies and UN bodies provided organisations like Evidence Aid with a fraction of the funding currently being poured into original studies seeking treatments and vaccines.

Evidence Aid’s chief executive officer, Ben Heaven Taylor, says

“Frontline workers and decision makers in countries around the world are crying out for information they can swiftly absorb and apply immediately in clinical settings. They don’t have time to read through dozens of research papers. In fact, evidence from our work suggests many may only have time to engage with posts on social media. We need to give them the information they need, in the format need, in the language they need.”

Although urgent action is needed now, the charity argues that the issue goes much deeper than COVID-19.

Mr Heaven Taylor says: “We need to be laying the groundwork now for future health disasters like COVID-19. Evidence Aid have long argued that the international organisations who made use of our resources even before COVID-19 need to invest in a proper evidence resource for health disasters. The fact that this hasn’t yet happened is particularly frustrating as COVID-19 is proving that systematic reviews and wide dissemination of research are far better value for money and more effective than funding a massive number of new studies. We need to learn from our mistakes and invest in better systems for the future”

Global health science consultancy Oxford PharmaGenesis, which helps fund Evidence Aid and whose staff are amongst its dozens of volunteers, is backing its call for investment.

Chris Winchester, chief executive officer of Oxford PharmaGenesis, said: “I feel we have already been on this journey in research in Western medicine. With COVID-19 and other science research challenges in the humanitarian sector we are seeing funding of lots of studies that don’t really answer the question and that overlap or repeat what has been done before.

“It would be better and less expensive if we brought evidence-based study outcomes together and made them quickly available in a range of languages. It does feel like the humanitarian sector is 20 years behind medicine in this regard.”

Notes to editors:

  • Evidence Aid was established by people linked to Cochrane, the internationally respected medical research body. It has provided research custodianship, synthesis and communication in clear accessible formats to the humanitarian sector for 15 years.
  • Oxford PharmaGenesis is an independent, global consultancy – providing communications services to the healthcare industry, professional societies and patient group for over 23 years.
  • For more information or to arrange an interview with either Ben Heaven Taylor or Chris Winchester please contact Ellie Challis by emailing Ellie Challis or calling 07776195486