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India, the world’s 10th largest economy, has witnessed a decline in the incidence of poverty during the last few decades largely due to economic liberalization. But one-third of its population still remain below the poverty line subsisting on less than a dollar a day. With economic advancement has come new vulnerabilities, inequalities, and insecurities in all development areas, including health.

Research in the second half of the century established that poor are less entitled to public subsidies and more likely to financial shock owing to out of pocket expenditures on health.

The situation is understandably worse for regions like the Sundarbans in West Bengal, where poverty stricken islanders have to cope with adverse geo-climatic conditions. Against this backdrop the FHS India research initiative was launched with the guiding principle of “putting the poor first”.


FHS Phase 1

In the initial phase of FHS India, research was carried out to gain a systematic understanding of determinants and consequences of inequity in health, healthcare, healthcare utilization and healthcare financing. Towards the later part of the research period, FHS India focused on the Sundarbans, a chronically handicapped region of West Bengal.

For the first time, FHS India generated systematic evidence on burden of ill-health in the Sundarbans based on household surveys, chronic morbidities suffered by older adults, healthcare utilization, choice of providers, issues in access to healthcare amidst extreme geographical barriers and issues in maternal and child healthcare. Further, a preliminary understanding of the healthcare delivery mechanisms in the Sundarbans was also gathered through a systematic survey of public health facilities, semi/unskilled rural medical practitioners and charitable trusts.

One of the major focus areas of FHS I was to build up a partnership for research that will be successful in influencing health policy and service delivery mechanism in the state of West Bengal.

FHS Phase 2

Evidence-based research from the first phase identified a need for greater community exposure, learning and identification of key systemic gaps and mitigation strategies. Through audience friendly communication methods, technology use, health services provider training and a prompt, need-based support, in this phase FHS India will work to formulate a feasible and comprehensive strategy for tackling health service delivery in the Sundarbans.

For the next five years, FHS India will concentrate on research focusing on systematic understanding of the multidimensional nature of crisis in child healthcare access in delta region of the Sundarbans. However, given that child health care shares the common fundamental problems with overall primary health care system, the uptake of research is expected to significantly impact the overall system.

We are planning operational research that will be piloted to learn about and demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed model.

A common knowledge platform will be established, which helps to establish a communication link not only between the FHS team and the stakeholders but also among the stakeholders themselves.

A Centre for Sundarban Studies will be established to operationalize the concept, which as an institutional body, will generate more resources to provide research and technical support to local stakeholders.

FHS Partners in India

News and announcements from FHS India

Recent FHS India publications


Ghosh U, Sen B, and Bose S (2019) Photo voice as a participatory approach to influence climate related health policy in the Sundarbans, The Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 3, Special Issue, S22, DOI: 10.1016/S2542-5196(19)30165-2

The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report highlights community-based strategies to drive effective and ecologically sustainable local adaptation strategies. A climate change hot spot, Sundarbans, India, needs collective action between communities and for local level health and non-health decision makers to find sustainable solutions to combat the impacts of climate change on child health.

The Future Health Systems (FHS) research project consortium was funded by UK Department for International Development (DFID). FHS is a partnership of leading research institutes from across the globe working in a variety of contexts to build resilient health systems for the future in Bangladesh, Uganda, China, India, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ethiopia. It generated evidence on health systems to benefit the poor.

The FHS India journey started in 2005 with a guiding principle of 'putting the poor first'. This document is a summary of the decade-long work of FHS India. It attempts to share our learnings and challenges and how we have contributed to the SDGs.

The FHS-India team has been engaged in research on the human health status in the Indian Sundarbans since 2009 and came up with a comprehensive report in 2010. A more in-depth report on the health of children of the Indian Sundarbans was published in 2013 in the name of Sundarbans Health Watch. In this present endeavor we have reflected on the pathways of climate change impacts on the health of the Sundarbans’ children. This report is based on a mixed method study conducted in Sagar, one of the six most vulnerable blocks out of the nineteen administrative blocks of the Sundarbans. This study has made an attempt to find out the present condition of different aspects of child health under climate crisis, to identify the gaps in service delivery and possible ways out on the basis of scientific evidence.

The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), Amref Health Africa and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) have agreed to collaborate in an effort to explore ways that technological innovations can contribute to government strategies for making progress towards universal health coverage (UHC). This means substantially increasing access by those whose basic health care needs are not being met. This report presents the outcome of a meeting held in Bengaluru, India. At this meeting, people with direct experience of different aspects of the development, piloting and taking to scale of technological innovations in India and a number of African countries explored the factors that influence this process.

The FHS India team have produced a new film titled Children of an Uncertain Climate, based on an FHS study titled ‘Decoding Child Health Impact under Climate Crisis.’ This short film identifies the pathways by which Climate Change is impacting the child health in Indian Sundarbans – a climatically vulnerable setting.

This key message brief shares learning from Future Health Systems partners’ experiences of working with traditional, primarily mainstream, media outlets publishing in print and online, as well as some television and radio organisations over 12 years. We hope it offers some helpful reflections for those who are currently or considering working with the media.