This Working Paper explores the literature on accountability in health systems and on mHealth and to build theoretical and empirical bridges between them. In so doing, the authors lay out a clearer understanding of the role that mHealth can play in accountability for public health services in LMICs, as well as its limitations. At the centre of this role is technology-facilitated information which, for instance, can help governments enforce and improve existing health policy, and which can assist citizens and civil society to communicate with each other to learn more about their rights, and to engage in data collection, monitoring and advocacy. Ultimately however, information, facilitated as it may be by mHealth, does not automatically lead to improved accountability. Different forms of health care come with different accountability challenges to which mHealth is only variably up to task. Furthermore, health systems, embedded as they are in diverse political, social and economic contexts, are extremely complex, and accountability requires far more than information. Thus, mHealth can serve as a tool for accountability, but is likely only able to make a difference in institutional systems that support accountability in other ways (both formal and informal) and in which political actors and health service providers are willing and able to change their behaviour.Read More
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New technological breakthroughs in biomedicine should have made it easier for countries to improve life expectancy at birth (LEB). This paper measures the pace of improvement in the decadal gains of LEB, for the last 60-years adjusting for each country’s starting point of LEB.Read More
Doctoral level research and training capacity in the social determinants of health at universities and higher education institutions in India, China, Oman and Vietnam: a survey of needs
Ali F, Shet A, Yan W, Al-Maniri A, Atkins and Lucas H (2017) Doctoral level research and training capacity in the social determinants of health at universities and higher education institutions in India, China, Oman and Vietnam: a survey of needs, Health Research Policy and Systems, 15:76, DOI: 10.1186/s12961-017-0225-5
Research capacity is scarce in low- and middle-income country (LMIC) settings. Social determinants of health research (SDH) is an area in which research capacity is lacking, particularly in Asian countries. SDH research can support health decision-makers, inform policy and thereby improve the overall health and wellbeing of the population. In order to continue building this capacity, we need to know to what extent training exists and how challenges could be addressed from the perspective of students and staff. This paper aims to describe the challenges involved in training scholars to undertake research on the SDH in four Asian countries – China, India, Oman and Vietnam.Read More
Achieving universal health coverage (UHC) has become a dominant policy preoccupation within the global health community. For Africa, progress towards UHC involves ambitious goals for expanding access to a range of effective health services, a substantial increase in health expenditure, and establishing a greater reliance on prepayment and pooling mechanisms to finance healthcare. According to one set of calculations, achieving UHC requires countries to spend at least $86 per capita in 2012 dollars on healthcare, and a minimum of 5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Clearly, expanding the ‘fiscal space for health’ will be key to the success of UHC.Read More
Socioeconomic inequalities in under-five mortality in rural Bangladesh: evidence from seven national surveys spreading over 20 years
Chowdhury AH, Hanifi SMA, Mia MN and Bhuiya A (2017) Socioeconomic inequalities in under-five mortality in rural Bangladesh: evidence from seven national surveys spreading over 20 years, International Journal for Equity in Health (2017) 16:197, DOI: 10.1186/s12939-017-0693-9
Socioeconomic inequality in health and mortality remains a disturbing reality across nations including Bangladesh. Inequality drew renewed attention globally. Bangladesh though made impressive progress in health, it makes an interesting case for learning. This paper examined the trends and changing pattern of socioeconomic inequalities in under-five mortality in rural Bangladesh. It also examined whether mother’s education had any effect in reducing socioeconomic inequalities.Read More
Khatun F, Heywood AE, Hanifi SM, Rahman MS, Ray PK, Liaw ST and Bhuiya A (2017) Gender differentials in readiness and use of mHealth services in a rural area of Bangladesh, BMC health services research, 17:573, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-017-2523-6
Traditional gender roles result in women lagging behind men in the use of modern technologies, especially in developing countries. Although there is rapid uptake of mobile phone use in Bangladesh, investigation of gender differences in the ownership, access and use of mobile phones in general and mHealth in particular has been limited. This paper presents gender differentials in the ownership of mobile phones and knowledge of available mHealth services in a rural area of Bangladesh.Read More
Learning by doing in practice: a roundtable discussion about stakeholder engagement in implementation research
Arwal SH, AulakhBK, Bumba A and Siddula A (2017) Learning by doing in practice: a roundtable discussion about stakeholder engagement in implementation research, Health Research Policy and Systems, 15(Suppl 2):105, DOI: 10.1186/s12961-017-0275-8
Researchers and policy-makers alike increasingly recognise the importance of engaging diverse perspectives in implementation research. This roundtable discussion presents the experiences and perspectives of three decision-makers regarding the benefits and challenges of their engagement in implementation research.
Participatory monitoring and evaluation approaches that influence decision-making: lessons from a maternal and newborn study in Eastern Uganda
Kananura RM, Ekirapa-Kiracho E, Paina L, Bumba A, Mulekwa G, Nakiganda-Busiku D, Oo HNL, Kiwanuka SN, George A and Peters DH (2017) Participatory monitoring and evaluation approaches that influence decision-making: lessons from a maternal and newborn study in Eastern Uganda, Health Research Policy and Systems, 15(Suppl 2):107, DOI: 10.1186/s12961-017-0274-9
The use of participatory monitoring and evaluation (M&E) approaches is important for guiding local decision-making, promoting the implementation of effective interventions and addressing emerging issues in the course of implementation. In this article, we explore how participatory M&E approaches helped to identify key design and implementation issues and how they influenced stakeholders’ decision-making in eastern Uganda.
A participatory action research approach to strengthening health managers’ capacity at district level in Eastern Uganda
Tetui M, Coe A-B, Hurtig A-H, Bennett S, Kiwanuka SN, George A and Ekirapa Kiracho E (2017) A participatory action research approach to strengthening health managers’ capacity at district level in Eastern Uganda, Health Research Policy and Systems, 15(Suppl 2):110, DOI: 10.1186/s12961-017-0273-x
Many approaches to improving health managers’ capacity in poor countries, particularly those pursued by external agencies, employ non-participatory approaches and often seek to circumvent (rather than strengthen) weak public management structures. This limits opportunities for strengthening local health managers’ capacity, improving resource utilisation and enhancing service delivery. This study explored the contribution of a participatory action research approach to strengthening health managers’ capacity in Eastern Uganda.
Using Theories of Change to inform implementation of health systems research and innovation: experiences of Future Health Systems consortium partners in Bangladesh, India and Uganda
Paina L, Wilkinson A, Tetui M, Ekirapa-Kiracho E, Barman D, Ahmed T, Mahmood SS, Bloom G, Knezovich J, George A and Bennett S (2017) Using Theories of Change to inform implementation of health systems research and innovation: experiences of Future Health Systems consortium partners in Bangladesh, India and Uganda, Health Research Policy and Systems, 15(Suppl 2):109, DOI: 10.1186/s12961-017-0272-y
The Theory of Change (ToC) is a management and evaluation tool supporting critical thinking in the design, implementation and evaluation of development programmes. We document the experience of Future Health Systems (FHS) Consortium research teams in Bangladesh, India and Uganda with using ToC. We seek to understand how and why ToCs were applied and to clarify how they facilitate the implementation of iterative intervention designs and stakeholder engagement in health systems research and strengthening.
Engaging stakeholders: lessons from the use of participatory tools for improving maternal and child care health services
Ekirapa-Kiracho E, Ghaosh U, Brahmachari R and Paina L (2017) Engaging stakeholders: lessons from the use of participatory tools for improving maternal and child care health services, Health Research Policy and Systems, 15(Suppl 2):106, DOI: 10.1186/s12961-017-0271-z
Effective stakeholder engagement in research and implementation is important for improving the development and implementation of policies and programmes. A varied number of tools have been employed for stakeholder engagement. In this paper, we discuss two participatory methods for engaging with stakeholders – participatory social network analysis (PSNA) and participatory impact pathways analysis (PIPA). Based on our experience, we derive lessons about when and how to apply these tools.
Strengthening scaling up through learning from implementation: comparing experiences from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Uganda
Bennett S, Mahmood SS, Edward A, Tetui M and Ekirapa-Kiracho E (2017) Strengthening scaling up through learning from implementation: comparing experiences from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Uganda, Health Research Policy and Systems, 15(Suppl 2):108, DOI: 10.1186/s12961-017-0270-0
Many effective innovations and interventions are never effectively scaled up. Implementation research (IR) has the promise of supporting scale-up through enabling rapid learning about the intervention and its fit with the context in which it is implemented. We integrate conceptual frameworks addressing different dimensions of scaling up (specifically, the attributes of the service or innovation being scaled, the actors involved, the context, and the scale-up strategy) and questions commonly addressed by IR (concerning acceptability, appropriateness, adoption, feasibility, fidelity to original design, implementation costs, coverage and sustainability) to explore how IR can support scale-up.
Engaging stakeholders in implementation research: lessons from the Future Health Systems Research Programme experience
Peters DH, Bhuiya A and Ghaffar A (2017) Engaging stakeholders in implementation research: lessons from the Future Health Systems Research Programme experience, Health Research Policy and Systems, 15(Suppl 2):104, DOI: 10.1186/s12961-017-0269-6
Implementation research and the engagement of stakeholders in such research have become increasingly prominent in finding ways to design, conduct, expand and sustain effective and equitable health policies, programmes and related interventions. How to bring together key sets of health systems stakeholders, including affected communities, health workers, health system managers, health policy-makers and researchers, as well as non-state and non-health sector actors, is a critical challenge. Stakeholder engagement plays important roles across intersecting research, policy and management processes, from selecting and defining the most relevant research questions to address policy and management concerns, to designing and conducting research, learning from and applying evidence, making changes to policy and programmes, and holding each other accountable. The articles in this supplement examine some of the tools and approaches used to facilitate stakeholder engagement in implementation research, and describe learning from the experience of the Future Health Systems (FHS) Research Programme Consortium.Read More
In public health research, the focus has traditionally been on descriptive and analytic epidemiological research (“what”, “why”, “where,” and “who”). Less attention has been given, particularly in low-income countries, to “how” interventions do or do not work in the “real world”, given the involvement of different actors, the context in which implementation occurs, and the factors that influence implementation. Future Health Systems (FHS) has been at the forefront in the exploration, application and growth of implementation research (IR).
Glandon D, Paina L, Alonge O, Peters DH and Bennett S (2017) 10 Best resources for community engagement in implementation research, Health Policy and Planning, Volume 32, Issue 10, 1457–1465, doi: 10.1093/heapol/czx123
Implementation research (IR) focuses on understanding how and why interventions produce their effects in a given context. This often requires engaging a broad array of stakeholders at multiple levels of the health system. Whereas a variety of tools and approaches exist to facilitate stakeholder engagement at the national or institutional level, there is a substantial gap in the IR literature about how best to do this at the local or community level. Similarly, although there is extensive guidance on community engagement within the context of clinical trials—for HIV/AIDS in particular—the same cannot be said for IR. We identified a total of 59 resources by using a combination of online searches of the peer-reviewed and grey literature, as well as crowd-sourcing through the Health Systems Global platform. The authors then completed two rounds of rating the resources to identify the ‘10 best’.Read More
Morgan R, Tetui M, Kananura RM Ekirapa-Kiracho E and George AS (2017) Gender dynamics affecting maternal health and health care access and use in Uganda, Health Policy and Planning, Volume 32, Issue supplement 5, pp z13 - v21, doi: 10.1093/heapol/czx011
Despite its reduction over the last decade, the maternal mortality rate in Uganda remains high, due to in part a lack of access to maternal health care. In an effort to increase access to care, a quasi-experimental trial using vouchers was implemented in Eastern Uganda between 2009 and 2011. Findings from the trial reported a dramatic increase in pregnant women’s access to institutional delivery. Sustainability of such interventions, however, is an important challenge. While such interventions are able to successfully address immediate access barriers, such as lack of financial resources and transportation, they are reliant on external resources to sustain them and are not designed to address the underlying causes contributing to women’s lack of access, including those related to gender. In an effort to examine ways to sustain the intervention beyond external financial resources, project implementers conducted a follow-up qualitative study to explore the root causes of women’s lack of maternal health care access and utilization. Based on emergent findings, a gender analysis of the data was conducted to identify key gender dynamics affecting maternal health and maternal health care. This paper reports the key gender dynamics identified during the analysis, by detailing how gender power relations affect maternal health care access and utilization in relation to: access to resources; division of labour, including women’s workload during and after pregnancy and lack of male involvement at health facilities; social norms, including perceptions of women’s attitudes and behaviour during pregnancy, men’s attitudes towards fatherhood, attitudes towards domestic violence, and health worker attitudes and behaviour; and decision-making. It concludes by discussing the need for integrating gender into maternal health care interventions if they are to address the root causes of barriers to maternal health access and utilization and improve access to and use of maternal health care in the long term.
Bloom G, Buckland Merrett G, Wilkinson A, Lin V and Paulin S (2017) Antimicrobial resistance and universal health coverage, BMJ Global Health, 2:e000518, doi:10.1136/bmjgh-2017-000518
The WHO launched a Global Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in 2015. World leaders in the G7, G20 and the UN General Assembly have declared AMR to be a global crisis. World leaders have also adopted universal health coverage (UHC) as a key target under the sustainable development goals. This paper argues that neither initiative is likely to succeed in isolation from the other and that the policy goals should be to both provide access to appropriate antimicrobial treatment and reduce the risk of the emergence and spread of resistance by taking a systems approach.
Experiences of using a participatory action research approach to strengthen district local capacity in Eastern Uganda
Tetui M, Coe A-B, Hurtig A-K, Ekirapa-Kiracho E and Kiwanuka SN (2017) Experiences of using a participatory action research approach to strengthen district local capacity in Eastern Uganda, Global Health Action, 10:sup4, 1346038, DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2017.1346038
To achieve a sustained improvement in health outcomes, the way health interventions are designed and implemented is critical. A participatory action research approach is applauded for building local capacity such as health management. Thereby increasing the chances of sustaining health interventions. This study explored stakeholder experiences of using PAR to implement an intervention meant to strengthen the local district capacity.Read More
‘Nurture the sprouting bud; do not uproot it’. Using saving groups to save for maternal and newborn health: lessons from rural Eastern Uganda
Ekirapa-Kiracho E, Paina L, Kananura RM, Mutebi A, Jane P, Tumuhairwe J, Tetui M and Kiwanuka SN (2017) ‘Nurture the sprouting bud; do not uproot it’. Using saving groups to save for maternal and newborn health: lessons from rural Eastern Uganda, Global Health Action, 10:sup4, 1347311, DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2017.1347311
Saving groups are increasingly being used to save in many developing countries. However, there is limited literature about how they can be exploited to improve maternal and newborn health. This paper describes saving practices, factors that encourage and constrain saving with saving groups, and lessons learnt while supporting communities to save through saving groups.Read More
Characteristics of community savings groups in rural Eastern Uganda: opportunities for improving access to maternal health services
Mutebi A, Kananura RM, Ekirapa-Kiracho E, Bua J, Kiwanuka SN, Nammazi G, Paina L and Tetui M (2017) Characteristics of community savings groups in rural Eastern Uganda: opportunities for improving access to maternal health services, Global Health Action, 10:sup4, 1347363, DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2017.1347363
Rural populations in Uganda have limited access to formal financial Institutions, but a growing majority belong to saving groups. These saving groups could have the potential to improve household income and access to health services. This article aimed to understand organizational characteristics, benefits and challenges, of savings groups in rural Uganda.Read More