Dissemination, learning, and project reflections at the University of Saskatchewan’s Workshop on Realist Research in Health and Social Systems.

By Nadege Sandrine Uwamahoro

Project team members Fernanda Andre, Jessie Forsyth, Nadege Sandrine Uwamahoro, and Nazeem Muhajarine participated in an event titled ‘Realist Research in Health Systems: Bridging Theory and Practice’ organized by researchers from the department of Community Health and Epidemiology at University of Saskatchewan, January 15-19,2024.

The workshop aimed to provide an overview of realist methodology and its utilization in research addressing a range of questions in health and social systems. Workshop participants encompassed a diverse group, including health system users, researchers, health administrators, clinicians, policy makers, and students, featuring both methodology experts and newcomers.

The event was bookended by keynote presentations by Dr. Gill Westhorp, a globally recognized expert in realist methodology, known for pioneering various approaches to conducting realist research and evaluation. The project’s realist research on Maternity Waiting Home (MWH) implementation was featured through three presentations and three workshops led by Nadege, the project’s realist research coordinator.

The first presentation covered the process and findings of the project’s realist review and synthesis of MWH literature from low and middle-income countries. It also discussed the design of the ongoing realist evaluation in Mozambique, which compares three of the project’s newly built MWHs with three older MWHs in four districts in Inhambane province: Homoine, Inharrime, Zavala, and Vilankulos. This phase of the research is being implemented in close collaboration with the project team in Mozambique led by Horácio Mandevo.

The second and third presentations focused on the challenges of conducting cross-cultural realist research and interviews, drawing from the project’s experiences in Inhambane. The three workshops involved analyzing interview excerpts from the realist evaluation.

The event fostered mutual learning between different realist research projects within the department, including projects on COVID-19 vaccination, integrated care pathways, maternal health, and long-term care. Dr. Gill Westhorp commended the Mozambique-Canada Maternal Health Project’s team members for the quality of the MWH realist research and skillful management of the challenges in cross-cultural research. In particular, the realist interview guide in the MWH evaluation was commended as an excellent model for crafting interview guides with and for local data collectors. The participating team members left the event with a wealth of insights, lessons and valuable reflections, shaping the next steps in the MWH realist evaluation. Fernanda also gained valuable input on a separate study that she is leading on Maternal Near Miss.

Nadege, who was visiting Saskatoon for the first time, embraced the opportunity for face-to-face meetups and spontaneous encounters with colleagues, all while taking on the marvels of Saskatoon’s winter. Social highlights encompassed delightful dinners with event organizers and the Saskatoon-based project team members, topped with a bonus visit to Wanuskewin Heritage Park.