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Future Health Systems is a research consortium working to improve access, affordability and quality of health services for the poor. We are a partnership of leading research institutes from across the globe working in a variety of contexts: in low-income countries (Bangladesh, Uganda), middle-income countries (China, India) and fragile states (Afghanistan) to build resilient health systems for the future. After a successful first five-year phase from 2006-2011 (see our success stories), we are entering a new six-year phase of research, funded mainly by UK aid.

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Promoting healthy communications

Future Health Systems

Effective communication is crucial to maximising the impact of development research. Yet spaces are rarely created for research institutions to share their experiences and plan how to improve their communications work’s effectiveness.

IDS is a partner in two health Research Programme Consortia that have made a conscious decision to ramp up the attention and effort they give to communications: Realising Rights and Future Health Systems. From 7-11 April 2008 participants from Bangladesh, China, Ghana, India, UK, US, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria came together to build their communication skills at a workshop held at IDS. Topics discussed ranged from utilising new media technologies – such as YouTube and cell phones – to innovative methods of monitoring and evaluating the impact of research communications.

Communication is a two-way process and researchers engaging stakeholders need to be much more imaginative and proactive in how they communicate their findings. The media, networks and other knowledge intermediaries play an important part, as they multiply the impact of the work.

By working across consortia participants were able to refine and deepen their existing communications strategies whether they aimed at improving health worker attitudes to sexual and reproductive health and rights; empowering service users to reject substandard and counterfeit drugs for malaria; or encouraging changes in health system planning to take account of the role of informal health care providers.

Attendees gave positive feedback. One described the workshop as ‘a golden opportunity to find out more about communication theories and best practices’. For those from IDS it was a chance to learn from partners’ communications work and to better understand our place within our global partnerships.

The aim of the Realising Rights Consortia is to use research to raise the profile of sexual and reproductive health and rights in developing countries and working in partnership to find innovative solutions. The Future Health Systems Consortia focuses on meeting the future health needs of the poor and vulnerable in developing countries by thinking differently about poverty.

Editors note: Kate Hawkins is Health and Social Change Programme Communications Officer at IDS, where this blog was originally published.