Asking the right questions

One of the great things about Twitter is that you get to read other peoples’ takes on things. Matthew Hankins, for example, posts people’s interpretations of p-values (under the hashtag #stillnotsignificant), which are more entertaining than you might think. A few weeks ago he posted the conclusion from a paper which read: “we were quite surprised to find little evidence … perhaps we did not ask the right questions”, which has kind of stuck with me.

Amos Mwaka is a clinician and researcher from Uganda, and was a visiting scholar with us at CCHSR earlier this year. He’s also a current PhD student, supervised by (amongst others) CCHSR’s Prof Martin Roland. We went together with our colleagues Yoryos and Silvia to the National Cancer Intelligence Network Cancer Outcomes Conference in June, where Amos was presenting some of his work on awareness of cervical cancer symptoms and beliefs about prevention and treatment of this in Uganda. During the conference Freddie Bray from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) presented a plenary session about the Global Burden of Cancer where he talked about the disproportionately high burden of cervical cancer in developing countries. Afterwards, I mentioned to Amos that I hadn’t realised how important his work was for Uganda. Amos replied that I hadn’t asked him. After a bit of thought, I added that I hadn’t known that these were the questions that I should have been asking. Amos said that one of the reasons Martin visited him in Uganda before taking him on as a PhD student was so that he would know the right questions to ask.

Health Services Research is not just about finding the right answers, but finding the right questions too.

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