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“I'm really proud to be spearheading the better use of public health data to improve programme performance.”

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Dr Srinath Satyanarayana, Deputy Director of The Union’s Centre for Operational Research is driven by his strong belief in evidence-based programme planning and implementation in public health.


Dr Srinath Satyanarayana, Deputy Director of The Union’s Centre for Operational Research (COR) is driven by his strong belief in evidence-based programme planning and implementation in public health.

Just over a decade ago, while studying for his M.D. in Community Medicine, Dr Satyanarayana was looking out for suitable opportunities involved in the promotion of evidence-based public health. In 2009, a chance encounter with Dr Nevin Wilson, the then Regional Director of The Union’s South-East Asia office in New Delhi, was a career changing moment: “I was immediately attracted towards the philosophy and the work of The Union. Through Dr Wilson, I was then introduced to Prof Anthony D Harries, the Director of COR, whose personality and work inspired me to join The Union’s COR as an Operational Research (OR) Fellow.

“The Union’s Centre for Operational Research provided me with the perfect platform for realising my life’s dream.”

Born and raised in a small gold mining town in southern India, Dr Satyanarayana studied Medicine at Mysore Medical College, and completed his M.D. at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. He also recently completed a PhD in Epidemiology with McGill University, Montreal, Canada, under the supervision of Prof Madhukar Pai, with his thesis titled Quality of TB Care in India: Assessing diagnostic and treatment practices of health care providers.

“I became attracted to work towards the elimination of tuberculosis (TB) and lung health issues mainly because of the sheer burden of the disease, and also the complexities involved in addressing these diseases. On a personal level, I am also a survivor of TB; I was diagnosed with spinal TB and underwent eight months of successful treatment.”

Dr Satyanarayana attended his first SORT IT course in 2009-10 as a participant, where SORT IT stands for Structured Operational Research Training Initiative. Since then, working with COR, he has been involved in the publication of more than 150 scientific papers on TB, TB-HIV and lung health, many of which have had an impact on policies and practices in India and other low- and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa. Since January 2017, he has been working as Deputy Director of COR.

“As Deputy Director, I am currently involved in promoting and conducting SORT IT courses. SORT IT supports countries and institutions to conduct OR around their own priorities; building a sustainable OR capacity and making evidence-informed decisions to improve programme performance.

“I strongly believe that OR and SORT IT are important public health tools that governments of low- and middle-income countries must adopt and use to improve the delivery of health services to their populations.”

In his daily work, Dr Satyanarayana provides technical and administrative support to enable the smooth functioning of COR and provides mentorship to the OR fellows and the SORT IT course trainees in their respective studies. He has mentored more than 50 participants from India and other low-income countries. He also provides technical support to national programmes to set OR priorities, and shares and discusses OR research findings with various stakeholders and colleagues to identify ways to promote the findings and to change policy and practice: “COR’s work is resulting in public health programmes that are better planned and implemented, leading to better utilisation of scare resources for reducing human suffering.

“I'm really proud to be in the team spearheading the movement towards better use of existing public health programme data for improving programme performance. I feel this will be a gamechanger in improving health systems in the near future, especially in low- and middle-income countries.”

Dr Satyanarayana’s passion for doing existing things better is apparent: “The immense possibility of ending TB and other major diseases through faster and more rigorous implementation of existing public health interventions motivates me both personally and professionally.” This goal is something that propels Dr Satyanarayana forward, along with a quote by an unknown author: “If we do not do what we cannot do, it is not a problem, but we must always do what we can do to the best of our ability and there is no limit to our abilities.”

SORT IT courses are country specific training courses that take place across Asia and Africa in order to build the capacity of programme managers working in OR. The course is designed for health programme managers, project managers, and public health students, and can relate to a programme or disease specific field (TB, HIV, lung health, tobacco control, communicable or non-communicable diseases).