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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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The ASCON XII conference on Health Systems Research: People’s Needs First

Future Health Systems


An exciting four days of the conference on health systems research ended on February 12th. Nearly 500 participants from many different countries spoke, presented posters and interacted on various topics in health systems research during this time. The various themes focused on at the conference were human resources and health workforce, health finance, service delivery, information and evidence, medical products and technology, and leadership and governance. FHS partners from Makerere University in Uganda, Johns Hopkins University in the USA, the Institute of Development Studies, UK and ICDDR,B, Bangladesh participated in many sessions. Hilary Standing spoke at a service delivery plenary session on ‘Delivering health services in the 21st century: Challenge and innovation’, Shehrin Shaila Mahmood presented on ‘Are village doctors a curse or a blessing?’ and ‘Stake and stakeholders of healthcare provision in Chakaria, Bangladesh’ Elizabeth Ekirapa-Kiracho spoke about ‘Disparities in access to quality healthcare in Uganda’, Mohammad Iqbal talked about the ‘Quality of informal healthcare providers in rural Bangladesh: Implication in the future health system’, Sabrina Rasheed made a presentation on “Assessment of availability of and accessibility to formal healthcare facilities in Chakaria upazila, Bangladesh’, Rumesa Rowen Aziz presented on ‘Local Health Watch: A tool to make the health system accountable to people’, Tania Wahed spoke on ‘Costs associated with use of healthcare services in Chakaria, Bangladesh’ and Shahidul Hoque talked about ‘Performance-based payment to community midwives enhances use of safe motherhood services in Chakaria, Bangladesh’. David Peters spoke at a plenary session on leadership and governance.

A special session on Future Health Systems was held. David Peters began the session with a presentation titled ‘Understanding health market systems’ where he talked about conceptualizing market systems, market performance, the develop-distort dilemma and health market innovations. Abbas Bhuiya presented on ‘Working with the village doctors to make informal health market work better in rural Bangladesh’ where he discussed the role of village doctors, the challenges in changing prescription patterns, and the Shystya Sena branding for creating a network of village doctors. During his talk, he also unveiled a new FHS publication, a book called ‘Health for the rural masses: Insights from Chakaria’, edited by Abbas Bhuiya and written by members of the Bangladesh team. The book discusses the health system in Chakaria, Bangladesh, with particular emphasis on informal healthcare providers who are used most by the rural population for common illnesses. Elizabeth Ekirapa-Kiracho gave a talk titled ‘Making health systems work for the poor- Increasing access to institutional deliveries using demand and supply side incentives’. Her presentation focused on assessing the effectiveness and cost of a voucher system for the poor for increasing deliveries at health facilities in Uganda.

Hilary Standing talked about ‘Health markets- their implications for the poor’. She discussed why markets may be bad for the poor, how markets could help improve access to health care for the poor, and important questions to ask about how a health market affects the poor. Copies of the new FHS book were distributed at the end of the session.

The conference ended on a good note for the Future Health Systems research teams in Bangladesh and Uganda with Shehrin Shaila Mahmood and Elizabeth Ekirapa-Kiracho winning the best oral presentation awards of ASCON XII. There were over a 100 presentations over the three days. This is a wonderful achievement and many congratulations to Elizabeth and Shaila for making this a double success for Future Health Systems!