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OBJECTIVE: Embedding researchers within health systems results in more socially relevant research and more effective uptake of evidence into policy and practice. However, the practice of embedded health service research remains poorly understood. We explored and assessed the development of embedded participatory approaches to health service research by a health research team in Kenya highlighting the different ways multiple stakeholders were engaged in a neonatal research study. METHODS: We conducted semistructured qualitative interviews with key stakeholders. Data were analysed thematically using both inductive and deductive approaches. SETTING: Over recent years, the Health Services Unit within the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Nairobi Kenya, has been working closely with organisations and technical stakeholders including, but not limited to, medical and nursing schools, frontline health workers, senior paediatricians, policymakers and county officials, in developing and conducting embedded health research. This involves researchers embedding themselves in the contexts in which they carry out their research (mainly in county hospitals, local universities and other training institutions), creating and sustaining social networks. Researchers collaboratively worked with stakeholders to identify clinical, operational and behavioural issues related to routine service delivery, formulating and exploring research questions to bring change in practice PARTICIPANTS: We purposively selected 14 relevant stakeholders spanning policy, training institutions, healthcare workers, regulatory councils and professional associations. RESULTS: The value of embeddedness is highlighted through the description of a recently completed project, Health Services that Deliver for Newborns (HSD-N). We describe how the HSD-N research process contributed to and further strengthened a collaborative research platform and illustrating this project's role in identifying and generating ideas about how to tackle health service delivery problems CONCLUSIONS: We conclude with a discussion about the experiences, challenges and lessons learned regarding engaging stakeholders in the coproduction of research.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





health policy, neonatology, organisation of health services, qualitative research