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Publications

Gendered health systems: evidence from low- and middle-income countries

Future Health Systems

Morgan R, Ayiasi RM, Barman D, Buzuzi S, Ssemugabo C, Ezumah N, George AS, Hawkins K, Hao X, King R, Liu T, Molyneux S, Muraya KW, Musoke D, Nyamhanga T, Ros B, Tani K, Theobald S, Vong S and Waldman L (2018) Gendered health systems: evidence from low- and middle-income countries, Health Research Policy and Systems, 16:58, DOI: 10.1186/s12961-018-0338-5

Gender is often neglected in health systems, yet health systems are not gender neutral. Within health systems research, gender analysis seeks to understand how gender power relations create inequities in access to resources, the distribution of labour and roles, social norms and values, and decision-making. This paper synthesises findings from nine studies focusing on four health systems domains, namely human resources, service delivery, governance and financing. It provides examples of how a gendered and/or intersectional gender approach can be applied by researchers in a range of low- and middle-income settings (Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, India, China, Nigeria and Tanzania) to issues across the health system and demonstrates that these types of analysis can uncover new and novel ways of viewing seemingly intractable problems.

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When Leadership Counts

Future Health Systems

FHS partner Makerere University School of Public Health is undertaking a Community Score Cards study, which is contributing to research on how leaders can work with the community and health workers to improve maternal and newborn health in Kibuku District. The use of the Community Score Card tool – a two-way and ongoing participatory tool for assessment, planning, monitoring and evaluation - aims to improve the performance of facilities and accountability by the different stakeholders who are responsible for improving the performance of facilities. This film provides an overview of the work and the use of community scorecards.

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What about us

Future Health Systems

This film, produced by FHS partner Makerere University School of Publich Health (MakSPH), highlights the challenges that women with disabilities face when seeking maternal health services in the Eastern Uganda district of Kibuku. To address some of these challenges, FHS partner MakSPH, in partnership with Research in Gender and Ethics (RinGs), is using the Community Scorecard methodology - a participatory tool for assessment, planning, monitoring and evaluation of services – with mothers living with disabilities, allowing their voices to be heard.

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Climate change: a threat to child food security in the Indian Sundarbans

Future Health Systems

The Sundarbans, the mangrove forest delta shared both by India and Bangladesh, is among the worst hit regions of climate change in the world. Even though food insecurities due to climate change are felt across the region, the distribution of vulnerabilities is largely uneven depending upon existing climatic and social intersections.

Within the context of socio-cultural and political dynamics, and rapid globalization, efforts to respond to, mitigate, or adapt to climate change needs to address issues of equity and social justice, posing both challenges and opportunities.

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In from the cold: Shifting the discourse on informal providers in Bangladesh and India

Future Health Systems

In Bangladesh and India, informal healthcare providers (IHPs) have long been part of the countries’ health systems. However, formal recognition of their existence is sensitive, partly due to resistance and concern from professional health bodies. Research by Future Health Systems (FHS) partners ICDDR,B and IIHMR has been instrumental in bringing the issues to discussion tables. Consequently, stakeholders have begun to recognize and work with IHPs – something previously unheard of.

Integrating Actions to Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance into Strategies to Achieve Universal Health Coverage

Future Health Systems

It is critical that ensuring people’s access to effective treatment for common infections is aligned with efforts to reduce the risk of emerging antimicrobial resistance. The Institute of Development Studies, a Future Health Systems partner, is influencing policy agendas to give greater focus on the need for the just and sustainable use of antimicrobials.

Are Women of the Indian Sundarbans Living in the Dark?

Future Health Systems

World-wide, women experience a higher burden of visual impairments than men, and this increases with age. This short film from the FHS India team - based on research by IIHMR University, FHS and RinGs - highlights the gendered dimension of seeking eye health care in the Indian Sundarbans - a climatically vulnerable setting.

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Key Considerations for Accountability and Gender in Health Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Future Health Systems

Waldman L, Theobald S and Morgan R (2018) Key Considerations for Accountability and Gender in Health Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, IDS Bulletin, 49(2), DOI: 10.19088/1968-2018.137

This article poses questions, challenges, and dilemmas for health system researchers striving to better understand how gender shapes accountability mechanisms, by critically examining the relationship between accountability and gender in health systems. It raises three key considerations, namely that: (1) power and inequities are centre stage: power relations are critical to both gender and accountability, and accountability mechanisms can transform health systems to be more gender-equitable; (2) intersectionality analyses are necessary: gender is only one dimension of marginalisation and intersects with other social stratifiers to create different experiences of vulnerability; we need to take account of how these stratifiers collectively shape accountability; and (3) empowerment processes that address gender inequities are a prerequisite for bringing about accountability. We suggest that holistic approaches to understanding health systems inequities and accountability mechanisms are needed to transform gendered power inequities, impact on the gendered dimensions of ill health, and enhance health system functioning.

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Introduction: Accountability for Health Equity: Galvanising a Movement for Universal Health Coverage

Future Health Systems

Nelson E, Bloom G and Shankland A. (2018) Introduction: Accountability for Health Equity: Galvanising a Movement for Universal Health Coverage, IDS Bulletin, 49(2), DOI: 10.19088/1968-2018.131

In July 2017, IDS hosted a workshop on ‘Unpicking Power and Politics for Transformative Change: Towards Accountability for Health Equity’, with the aim of generating dialogue and mutual learning among activists, researchers, policymakers, and funders working towards more equitable health systems and a commitment to Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This issue of the IDS Bulletin is based around three principal themes that emerged from the workshop as needing particular attention. First, the nature of accountability politics ‘in time’ and the cyclical aspects of efforts towards accountability for health equity. Second, the contested politics of ‘naming’ and measuring accountability, and the intersecting dimensions of marginalisation and exclusion that are missing from current debates. Third, the shifting nature of power in global health and new configurations of health actors, social contracts, and the role of technology.For the first time in IDS Bulletin history, themes are explored not only in text but also through a selection of online multimedia content, including a workshop video, a photo story and a documentary. This expansion into other forms of communication is explicitly aimed at galvanising larger numbers of people in a movement towards UHC and the linked agenda of accountability for health equity.The articles and multimedia in this IDS Bulletin reflect the fact that while the desired outcome might be the same – better health for all – accountability strategies are as diverse as the contexts in which they have developed.

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‘We have the internet in our hands’: Bangladeshi college students’ use of ICTs for health information

Future Health Systems

Waldman L, Ahmed T, Scott N, Akter S, Standing H and Rasheed S (2018) ‘We have the internet in our hands’: Bangladeshi college students’ use of ICTs for health information, Globalization and Health, 14:31, DOI: 10.1186/s12992-018-0349-6

Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) which enable people to access, use and promote health information through digital technology, promise important health systems innovations which can challenge gatekeepers’ control of information, through processes of disintermediation. College students, in pursuit of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information, are particularly affected by gatekeeping as strong social and cultural norms restrict their access to information and services. This paper examines mobile phone usage for obtaining health information in Mirzapur, Bangladesh. It contrasts college students’ usage with that of the general population, asks whether students are using digital technologies for health information in innovative ways, and examines how gender affects this.

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Health system innovations: adapting to rapid change

Future Health Systems

Bloom G, Wilkinson A and Bhuiya A  (2018) Health system innovations: adapting to rapid change, Globalization and Health, 14:29, DOI: 10.1186/s12992-018-0347-8

A fundamental challenge for health systems is the need to adapt to changes in the patterns of health service need, scientific and technological developments, and the economic and institutional contexts within which providers of health services are embedded. This is especially true of many low and middle-income countries, where the pace of multiple and interconnected changes is breath-taking. This paper introduces the Thematic Issue on Innovation in Health Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. 

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ICT-Facilitated Accountability and Engagement in Health Systems: a Review of Making All Voices Count mHealth for Accountability Projects

Future Health Systems

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. 

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Accountability in Health Systems and the Potential of mHealth

Future Health Systems

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. 

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The slowing pace of life expectancy gains since 1950

Future Health Systems

Cardona C and Bishai D (2018) The slowing pace of life expectancy gains since 1950, BMC Public Health, 18(1), 151, DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-5058-9

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.

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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

Future Health Systems

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.

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Universal health coverage, economic slowdown and system resilience: Africa’s policy dilemma

Future Health Systems

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.

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Recognition matters: only one in ten awards given to women

Future Health Systems

Morgan R, Dhatt R, Muraya K, Buse K, and George AS (2017) Recognition Matters: Only One in Ten Awards given to Women, The Lancet, 389(10088):2469, DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31592-1

Receiving an award is an accolade. Awards validate and bring visibility, help attract funding, hasten career advancement, and can consolidate career accomplishments. Yet, in the fields of public health and medicine, few women receive them. Between seven public health and medicine awards from diverse countries, the chances of a woman receiving a prize was nine out of 100 since their inception.

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Fair Resource Allocation to Health Research: Priority Topics for Bioethics Scholarship

Future Health Systems

Pratt B and Hyder AA (2017) Fair Resource Allocation to Health Research: Priority Topics for Bioethics Scholarship, Bioethics,31(6):454-466, DOI: 10.1111/bioe.12350

This article draws attention to the limited amount of scholarship on what constitutes fairness and equity in resource allocation to health research by individual funders. It identifies three key decisions of ethical significance about resource allocation that research funders make regularly and calls for prioritizing scholarship on those topics – namely, how health resources should be fairly apportioned amongst public health and health care delivery versus health research, how health research resources should be fairly allocated between health problems experienced domestically versus other health problems typically experienced by disadvantaged populations outside the funder's country, and how domestic and non-domestic health research funding should be further apportioned to different areas, e.g. types of research and recipients.

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Bangladeshi neonates miss the potential benefits of early BCG vaccination

Future Health Systems

Hanifi SMA, Das S, and Rahman M (2018) Bangladeshi neonates miss the potential benefits of early BCG vaccination, International Journal of  Epidemiology, Volume 47, Issue 1, Pp 348–349, DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyx223

Bangladesh is a high-TB-burden country. It is recommended, for TB-endemic areas, that BCG be given to neonates at the first possible opportunity of their life. Several observational studies and lately a few randomized trials show that BCG offers ‘heterologous protective effects’ beyond its target disease tuberculosis. A recent review by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) on non-specific effects of BCG vaccine shows that vaccination at birth reduces neonatal mortality by 48% (18–67%), which is mainly due to the prevention of neonatal sepsis and respiratory infections. In Bangladesh, neonatal mortality is high (28 per 1000 live births) (and accounts for about two-thirds of all under-five deaths), mainly due to infections, birth asphyxia, respiratory infection and prematurity.

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Socioeconomic inequalities in under-five mortality in rural Bangladesh: evidence from seven national surveys spreading over 20 years

Future Health Systems

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.

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