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Institute of Development Studies (IDS)


IDS is an international centre of excellence in multi-disciplinary analysis, teaching, and practice of development based at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. Its areas of expertise include poverty dynamics, social policy analysis, processes for involving stakeholders, strategies for making health services more accountable to their community; and research methods that combine quantitative and qualitative evaluation of performance of health systems. The organisation has experience working on health and social protection in China, Uganda, and other Asian and African countries, innovative strategies to improve provider performance in China and Bangladesh, and developing analytic frameworks to bring together development and public health approaches to understanding health systems.

Who we work with at IDS

Recent FHS publications involving IDS


Information and communication technologies (ICTs) and mHealth innovations hold great potential to improve health systems and health outcomes while at the same time enhancing citizen engagement and accountability. Yet there has been little assessment of the impact of mHealth innovations on the ground. 

This paper reviews the experiences of seven mHealth initiatives funded by the Making All Voices Count programme: OurHealth, eThekwini WACs and Thuthuzela Voices (all in South Africa), Mobile Mapping for Women’s Health (Tanzania), Text2Speak (Nigeria), SMS Gateway (Indonesia) and Citizen Journalism for Quality Governance of Universal Health Insurance Scheme (also Indonesia). It discusses the accountability model adopted by each project, and the challenges they faced. 

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. 

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.

Russo G, Bloom G and McCoy D (2017) Universal health coverage, economic slowdown and system resilience: Africa’s policy dilemma, BMJ Global Health, 2 (3), DOI: 10.1136/bmjgh-2017-00040

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.

From 19-21 July 2017, the IDS programme on “Accountability for Health Equity” held a workshop bringing together over 80 activists, researchers, public health practitioners and policy makers to examine critically the forces that shape accountability in health systems, from local to global levels. 

This report is a record of the presentations and discussions that occurred over the course of workshop. It is by no means exhaustive, but aims to represent accurately the debates that emerged.

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. 

Recent FHS blogs from IDS

40 years since Alma Ata: It's back to the future for Health for All

Quite a lot has changed in the last 40 years, right? And yet, four decades since the 1978 signing of the international Alma Ata declaration in Almaty, Kazakhstan, meeting the essential health needs of people through primary health care has once again been highlighted as the key to the attainment of Health for All by a ‘new’ global movement.

Naming the moment

We had three days. That was it. We had three days: to gather, to share ideas and experiences, to make new connections, to strengthen existing ones, and to wrestle with the conceptual beast that is “accountability.” The aim? To bring sharp minds, creative problem-solvers and pragmatic innovators together under one roof so that we might get a few steps closer to our common goal of greater health equity. Did it work? Yes. With caveats. You can be the judge.

How will China’s Belt and Road shape global health cooperation?

The term ‘BRICS’ was coined to reflect a changing world, in which a number of large, emerging economies were starting to play a greater role in world economic affairs. Terms such as this reflect changing global realities, but also have the potential to shape those realities. The jury is still out on how far China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) will reshape the way we see the world. The view of blog post authors Lewsi Husain and Gerry Bloom is that it will have a significant impact in many areas, one of which is advancing cooperation for global health. At a time of retrenchment and reorientation in developed economies’ assistance, how China, existing donors and health agencies learn to work together will have an important impact on global health outcomes and may provide learning on how to collaborate on other, more contentious, issues.

Onions, elephants and lenses; reflections on the accountability for health equity workshop

By Ligia Paina, FHS Researcher

What happens when you bring 80+ social activists, anthropologists, health systems researchers and policy makers together for a three day workshop and ask them to further the collective understanding of accountability and its role in health equity?

I am going to leave that question for the team from the Institute of Development Studies that hosted the workshop, but here I wanted to share some reflections on what was a fascinating event. 

Transforming accountabilities for health

Last week, between 80-90 researchers, practitioners, advocates and policymakers gathered for a three-day workshop organised by the IDS Accountability for Health Equity programme. Entitled Unpicking Power and Politics for Transformative Change: Towards Accountability for Health Equity, the event was hosted in collaboration with Unequal Voices, Future Health Systems, the Open Society Foundations, the Impact Initiative, and Health Systems Global. In this blog, Tom Barker and Karine Gatellier share their reflections from the event.

International Women’s Day, women’s health & gender: Four things to consider as health practitioners and researchers

This International Women’s Day, March 8 2017, RinGs consider the relationship between women’s health and gender inequity and identify key points for health practitioners and researchers to consider.