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Publications

Health dynamics, innovation and the slow race to make technology work for the poor

Future Health Systems

Leach M, Scoones I. 2008. Health dynamics, innovation and the slow race to make technology work for the poor Global Forum Update on Research for Health Volume 5

Abstract

 

The science, technology and development races are on. Nowhere is this clearer than in international health,where a new generation of donor, philanthropic andpublic-private initiatives is emerging and attracting increasingfunding. These hold out promises of new drugs, vaccines andinfrastructure applications, with some claiming majortechnological breakthroughs that could solve longstandinghealth problems and tackle emerging disease outbreaks in thedeveloping world. This “race to universal fixes” for health anddevelopment problems is valuable. It is an important counter to innovation approaches aimed simply at a race to the top inthe global economy, assuming that health and poverty-relatedproblems will be solved by trickle down. Yet as this article argues, it risks missing the finishing line if a complementary– and slower – race is not pursued. This “slow race”emphasizes pathways to tackling ill-health and disease whichare specific to diverse and dynamic local contexts; createshybrids between local and external knowledge andperspectives for appropriate solutions; recognizes thattechnological fixes are not enough and that social, culturaland institutional dimensions are key, requiring a systemsapproach to health and innovation, and embraces uncertaintyand unpredictable change through adaptation and learning.