Publications

2012
Hoffman, S.J., 2012. Foreign Aid Should Reflect Canada's Priorities: Equality, Democracy, Health. The Globe and Mail. Article
Hoffman, S.J., 2012. Mitigating Inequalities of Influence among States in Global Decision Making: Mitigating Inequalities in Global Decision Making. Global Policy , 3 (4) , pp. 421-432. PDFAbstract

International institutions should be as equal as they claim to be, especially since many of them assert superordinate normative authority based on having egalitarian governance structures. However, when defining equality with respect to states’ real-world influence in determining substantive outcomes, it is evident that there is an equality-influence gap between the rhetoric of parity among states and the reality of international politics. This is problematic because it undermines trust in those international institutions that falsely claim to embody equality among states when empirically they do not. Focusing on the United Nations System, this paper identifies three main causes of this disproportional influence among states in global decision making: (a) external imbalances in political capital; (b) internal economic barriers; and (c) surreptitious influence through non-state actors, funding and training. Six pragmatic strategies are proposed for mitigating these inequalities: (1) building capacity for leadership in global advocacy; (2) supporting global networks owned by developing countries; (3) equalizing multi-party partnerships; (4) facilitating evidence-informed global decision making; (5) enhancing accountability and independent evaluation; and (6) encouraging further discussion on institutional reforms. Notwithstanding sovereign equality’s deep flaws, it is hoped that challenging the egalitarian presumptions of global decision making will encourage further debate on this issue among those who can act upon it.

Hoffman, S.J., et al., 2012. A Review of Conceptual Barriers and Opportunities Facing Health Systems Research to Inform a Strategy from the World Health Organization. Geneva: World Health Organization. PDFAbstract

Health systems research is widely recognized as essential for strengthening health systems, getting costeffective treatments to those who need them, and achieving better health status around the world. However, there is significant ambiguity and confusion in this field’s characteristics, boundaries, definition and methods. Adding to this ambiguity are major conceptual barriers to the production, reproduction, translation and implementation of health systems research relating to both the complexity of health systems and research involving them. These include challenges with epistemology, applicability, diversity, comparativity and priority-setting. Three promising opportunities exist to mitigate these barriers and strengthen the important contributions of health systems research. First, health systems research can be supported as a field of scientific endeavour, with a shared language, rigorous interdisciplinary approaches, cross-jurisdictional learning and an international society. Second, national capacity for health systems research can be strengthened at the individual, organizational and system levels. Third, health systems research can be embedded as a core function of every health system. Addressing these conceptual barriers and supporting the field of health systems research promises to both strengthen health systems around the world and improve global health outcomes.

Hoffman, S.J. ed., 2012. Student Voices 4: Assessing Proposals for Access to Medicines Reform, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: McMaster Health Forum. PDF
Hoffman, S.J., 2012. You Can Focus on Trade, But Don't Call it Aid. The Globe and Mail. Article
Hoffman, S.J. & Røttingen, J.-A., 2012. Assessing Implementation Mechanisms for an International Agreement on Research and Development for Health Products. Bulletin of the World Health Organization , 90 (11) , pp. 854-63. PDFAbstract

The Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) are currently debating the substance and form of an international agreement to improve the financing and coordination of research and development (R&D) for health products that meet the needs of developing countries. In addition to considering the content of any possible legal or political agreement, Member States may find it helpful to reflect on the full range of implementation mechanisms available to bring any agreement into effect. These include mechanisms for states to make commitments, administer activities, manage financial contributions, make subsequent decisions, monitor each other's performance and promote compliance. States can make binding or non-binding commitments through conventions, contracts, declarations or institutional reforms. States can administer activities to implement their agreements through international organizations, sub-agencies, joint ventures or self-organizing processes. Finances can be managed through specialized multilateral funds, financial institutions, membership organizations or coordinated self-management. Decisions can be made through unanimity, consensus, equal voting, modified voting or delegation. Oversight can be provided by peer review, expert review, self-reports or civil society. Together, states should select their preferred options across categories of implementation mechanisms, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. The challenge lies in choosing the most effective combinations of mechanisms for supporting an international agreement (or set of agreements) that achieves collective aspirations in a way and at a cost that are both sustainable and acceptable to those involved. In making these decisions, WHO's Member States can benefit from years of experience with these different mechanisms in health and its related sectors.

Hoffman, S.J. & Røttingen, J.-A., 2012. Be Sparing with International Laws. Nature , 483 (7389) , pp. 275. PDF
Hoffman, S.J. & Sossin, L., 2012. Empirically Evaluating the Impact of Adjudicative Tribunals in the Health Sector: Context, Challenges and Opportunities. Health Economics, Policy & Law , 7 (2) , pp. 147-74. PDFAbstract

Adjudicative tribunals are an integral part of health system governance, yet their real-world impact remains largely unknown. Most assessments focus on internal accountability and use anecdotal methodologies; few, studies if any, empirically evaluate their external impact and use these data to test effectiveness, track performance, inform service improvements and ultimately strengthen health systems. Given that such assessments would yield important benefits and have been conducted successfully in similar settings (e.g. specialist courts), their absence is likely attributable to complexity in the health system, methodological difficulties and the legal environment within which tribunals operate. We suggest practical steps for potential evaluators to conduct empirical impact evaluations along with an evaluation matrix template featuring possible target outcomes and corresponding surrogate endpoints, performance indicators and empirical methodologies. Several system-level strategies for supporting such assessments have also been suggested for academics, health system institutions, health planners and research funders. Action is necessary to ensure that policymakers do not continue operating without evidence but can rather pursue data-driven strategies that are more likely to achieve their health system goals in a cost-effective way.

Hoffman, S.J. & Frenk, J., 2012. Producing and Translating Health System Evidence for Improved Global Health. Journal of Interprofessional Care , 26 (1) , pp. 4-5. PDF
Hoffman, S.J. & Rizvi, Z., 2012. WHO's Undermining Tobacco Control. The Lancet , 380 (9843) , pp. 727-8. PDF
2011
Lavis, J.N. & Hoffman, S.J., 2011. Dialogue Summary: Addressing Health and Emerging Global Issues in Canada, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: McMaster Health Forum. PDF
Hoffman, S.J. & Lavis, J.N., 2011. Issue Brief: Addressing Health and Emerging Global Issues in Canada, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: McMaster Health Forum. PDF
Hoffman, S.J. ed., 2011. Student Voices 2: Assessing Proposals for Global Health Governance Reform, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: McMaster Health Forum. PDF
Hoffman, S.J. ed., 2011. Student Voices 3: Advocating for Global Health through Evidence, Insight and Action, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: McMaster Health Forum. PDF
Hoffman, S.J., et al., 2011. Assessing Healthcare Providers' Knowledge and Practices Relating to Insecticide-Treated Nets and the Prevention of Malaria in Ghana, Laos, Senegal and Tanzania. Malaria Journal , 10 (363) , pp. 1-12. PDFAbstract

Background: Research evidence is not always being disseminated to healthcare providers who need it to inform their clinical practice. This can result in the provision of ineffective services and an inefficient use of resources, the implications of which might be felt particularly acutely in low- and middle-income countries. Malaria prevention is a particularly compelling domain to study evidence/practice gaps given the proven efficacy, cost-effectiveness and disappointing utilization of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs).

Methods: This study compares what is known about ITNs to the related knowledge and practices of healthcare providers in four low- and middle-income countries. A new questionnaire was developed, pilot tested, translated and administered to 497 healthcare providers in Ghana (140), Laos (136), Senegal (100) and Tanzania (121). Ten questions tested participants' knowledge and clinical practice related to malaria prevention. Additional questions addressed their individual characteristics, working context and research-related activities. Ordinal logistic regressions with knowledge and practices as the dependent variable were conducted in addition to descriptive statistics.

Results: The survey achieved a 75% response rate (372/497) across Ghana (107/140), Laos (136/136), Senegal (51/100) and Tanzania (78/121). Few participating healthcare providers correctly answered all five knowledge questions about ITNs (13%) or self-reported performing all five clinical practices according to established evidence (2%). Statistically significant factors associated with higher knowledge within each country included: 1) training in acquiring systematic reviews through the Cochrane Library (OR 2.48, 95% CI 1.30-4.73); and 2) ability to read and write English well or very well (OR 1.69, 95% CI 1.05-2.70). Statistically significant factors associated with better clinical practices within each country include: 1) reading scientific journals from their own country (OR 1.67, 95% CI 1.10-2.54); 2) working with researchers to improve their clinical practice or quality of working life (OR 1.44, 95% CI 1.04-1.98); 3) training on malaria prevention since their last degree (OR 1.68, 95% CI 1.17-2.39); and 4) easy access to the internet (OR 1.52, 95% CI 1.08-2.14).

Conclusions: Improving healthcare providers' knowledge and practices is an untapped opportunity for expanding ITN utilization and preventing malaria. This study points to several strategies that may help bridge the gap between what is known from research evidence and the knowledge and practices of healthcare providers. Training on acquiring systematic reviews and facilitating internet access may be particularly helpful.

Hoffman, S.J., 2011. Ending Medical Complicity in State-Sponsored Torture. The Lancet , 378 (9802) , pp. 1535-7. PDF
Hoffman, S.J. & Røttingen, J.-A., 2011. A Framework Convention on Obesity Control?. The Lancet , 378 (9809) , pp. 2068. PDF
Hoffman, S.J., Pogge, T. & Hollis, A., 2011. New Drug Development. Lancet , 377 (9769) , pp. 901-2. PDF
Hoffman, S.J. & Pogge, T., 2011. Revitalizing Pharmaceutical Innovation for Global Health. Health Affairs , 30 (2) , pp. 367. PDF
2010
Gilbert, J.H.V., et al., 2010. Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice. Geneva: World Health Organization. PDFAbstract

At a time when the world is facing a shortage of health workers, policymakers are looking for innovative strategies that can help them develop policy and programmes to bolster the global health workforce. The Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice highlights the current status of interprofessional collaboration around the world, identifies the mechanisms that shape successful collaborative teamwork and outlines a series of action items that policy-makers can apply within their local health system. The goal of the Framework is to provide strategies and ideas that will help health policy-makers implement the elements of interprofessional education and collaborative practice that will be most beneficial in their own jurisdiction.

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