Health

Individuals, communities and societies face a number of health challenges associated with rapid and accelerating social, economic, demographic and ecological change. These have been manifested in major outbreaks of infectious diseases, a growing problem of chronic, non-communicable disease and the continued existence of large numbers of people living in poverty and vulnerable to a wide variety of potential shocks. There is the growing realisation that the world's population is interconnected and health challenges are faced by rich and poor countries alike.

A home care worker from the Mulanje Mission Hospital, Malawi, crushes antibiotics before applying them to the tumour on Patrick Mandeule's leg. Credit
Kieran Dodds / Panos

IDS research and knowledge activities to address these challenges on health revolve around resilience, accountability, urbanisation and digital innovation for health system transformation.

1. Resilience

The speed of economic, social, technological and ecological change is likely to accelerate in the future. This will make the contribution of the health sector to social resilience increasingly important. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa and Zika in Latin America have demonstrated the importance of an effective and resilient health system in protecting people against catastrophic health shocks. The transmission of infections from animals to humans and the growing challenge of resistance to antibiotics demonstrate the need to take into account the wider social and ecological challenges in designing intervention strategies to build resilient health systems.

2. Accountability

Health inequities - that is, unfair and avoidable difference in health associated with poverty, gender inequalities and other factors that marginalise large numbers of people. Innovative approaches are needed that recognise changing roles of states, private actors and community and social organisations, and the interaction between local, national and global levels. If existing weaknesses in governance and accountability arrangements are not tackled, the effort to achieve Universal Health Coverage as part of the fairer world envisaged in the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is unlikely to be achieved.

3. Urban

With more than half of humanity now living in urban areas, and with the urban population in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, two of the world's poorest regions, set to double in the next two decade, there is an urgent need for strategies that enable people to live safely in these rapidly growing cities. These include the provision of decent hygiene and sanitation, context-appropriate forms of disease containment, measures to ensure access to safe, effective and affordable medical care and the recognition of the peri-urban poor as legitimate citizens.

4. Digital innovation

Information and Communication technologies (ICTs) are going to have a major impact on health and health systems in the near future. To ensure that everyone (including the very poor) benefits from this new technology, it is vital that those designing new applications, people responsible for health systems and social researchers come together to explore the opportunities and potential challenges, especially for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

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Photo of Alex Shankland, IDS Research Fellow More details

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Aparna John, DPhil Candidate, Health and Nutrition Cluster, Institute of Development Studies More details

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Photo of Cathérine Müller, Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction research team More details

Photo of Catherine Holley,  Information Officer for the Human Development Resource Centre (HDRC) in IDS Knowledge Services. More details

Photo of Gerry Bloom, Research Fellow of the Knowledge Technology and Society team More details

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Photo of Jackie Shaw, Research Fellow in the Participation research cluster More details

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Leah Murphy is the Health and Education Convenor with the Knowledge Services More details

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Accountability for Health Equity Programme

Since the publication of the 2004 World Development Report a range of different attempts have been made to make the design, prioritisation and delivery of health services more accountable to different stakeholders. However, complex politics and power dynamics can limit or skew people's abilities to access services or hold them to account, particularly for poor and marginalized people. More details

AllAfrica and IDS development reporting initiative

IDS and AllAfrica have teamed up to produce and distribute compelling multi-media content on critical issues for Africa’s future, as part of a development reporting initiative. More details

Assessing the Impact of Conflict and the Effects of WFP Humanitarian Interventions on Moderate Acute Malnutrition and Other Developmental Outcomes in Mali

This project is a multidisciplinary research partnership involving IFPRI, PCD, IDS and WFP which builds on a unique pre-crises baseline conducted in early 2012 to provide rigorous evidence for policymakers on the effects of humanitarian interventions by WFP on child malnutrition in in Mali. More details

Bridging the Gap Evaluation

This is a mid-term evaluation of the Bridging the Gaps Programme a global program operating in 16 countries across all the main key populations at-risk for HIV. More details

Changing health and welfare in China and the UK

The project looks at the changing role of state and non-government actors in providing social services in China’s rapidly evolving welfare regime, and aims to promote mutual learning between officials and researchers in China and the UK. Despite historical, social and institutional differences, there is a degree of similarity in strategies emerging. More details

Childhood Vaccination in West Africa

Vaccines for children are currently high on international policy, aid and funding agendas, as a major promised means to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Yet major challenges have emerged in ensuring effective coverage and dealing with public anxieties. More details

Childhood Vaccination: Science and Public Engagement

Vaccines for children are currently high on international policy, aid and funding agendas, as a major promised means to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Yet major challenges have emerged in ensuring effective coverage and dealing with public anxieties. More details

China Health Development Forum

The China Health Development Forum is an informal association coordinated by the Chinese Health Economics Institute (CHEI) and IDS. More details

Citizen Engagement Programme (CEP)

An empowerment and accountability programme aimed at improving the quality of health and education services in Mozambique. More details

Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium

A STEPS-led consortium of researchers aiming to advance understanding of the connections between disease and environment in Africa, focusing on animal-to-human disease transmission.. More details

Ebola: Lessons for development

IDS researchers argue that there is an urgent need to look beyond the immediate, on-the-ground concerns of disease control and containment to consider the bigger and broader questions about international development. More details

Ensuring Health Care for the Rural Poor: alternative approaches in China and Vietnam

A comparative study of rural health care services undertaken in collaboration with partners in Vietnam and China. More details

Final External Review of the Cross-Cutting Disability Research Programme

This independent external review aimed to determine the extent to which the three year Cross-Cutting Disability Research Programme (CCDRP) in Nepal, India, Zambia, Uganda, and Kenya, has met its expected impact, outcome and outputs. More details

Future Health Systems Research Programme Consortium

Future Health Systems is a research consortium working to improve access, affordability and quality of health services for the poor. More details

Health Systems Global Communications

IDS is working with Health Systems Global (HSG) to develop communications, share messages and engage with its members and the global community. More details

Human Development Innovation Fund

The Human Development Innovation Fund (HDIF) identifies and supports innovations that have the potential to create social impact in education, health and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) across Tanzania. More details

Independent Evaluation of the Reduction of Maternal and Neonatal Mortality in Kenya Programme

An evaluation of a programme in Kenya to avert maternal and neonatal deaths through nationwide life saving skills training for health professionals, and integrated health system strengthening in selected counties. More details

Interactions Eldis Website

Interactions is an IDS-hosted interactive online resource on Empowering Women and Girls, featuring real-time research and analysis. The website features up-to-the minute research findings and policy analysis on gender-based violence, urban health and unpaid care work from IDS and partners More details

Livestock, Livelihoods and Health

Livestock, Livelihoods and Health is an interdisciplinary research programme exploring diseases that can be transmitted from wild or domesticated animals to people (known as zoonoses). More details

Myanmar Pig Partnership

The Myanmar Pig Partnership is focusing on the risks of zoonotic disease emergence associated with the rapid growth and intensification of livestock production in Myanmar in recent years. More details

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View all Research Theme's publications

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WP471_FrontCover

Social Accountability in Big Cities: Strategies and Institutions in Delhi and São Paulo

IDS Working Paper 471 (2016)

There are signs that public services can improve in big cities when the urban poor hold providers directly accountable – what we now call social accountability. We do not know, however, to what extent the urban poor, through their civil society groups, engage in forms of social accountability nor what strategies they use. More details

Non-IDS publication

Unlocking Community Capability: Key to More Responsive, Resilient and Equitable Health Systems

Future Health Systems Key Message Brief 3 (2016)

Communities are more than a geographic location; they are a site of struggle and also a dynamic engine of change. Unlocking their capabilities to strengthen health systems requires understanding and adapting to local context, engaging a diversity of actors and working with the productive tensions inherent to collective action. More details

ER194_FrontCover

Impact of Community-led Total Sanitation on Women’s Health in Urban Slums: A Case Study from Kalyani Municipality

IDS Evidence Report 194 (2016)

This Evidence Report seeks to understand the health and other impacts of slum women’s access to sanitation through the Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach. More details

ER193_FrontCover

Centre for Rising Powers and Global Development: Training Course on International Development and Global Health Strategy

IDS Evidence Report 193 (2016)

The Centre for Rising Powers and Global Development delivers intensive training courses for government officials and development professionals to explore the theories, policies and practices of international development cooperation, particularly relating to the growing role of the rising powers in global development. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Zoonotic Disease: Who Gets Sick, and Why? Explorations from Africa

Critical Public Health 27.1 (2016)

Global risks of zoonotic disease are high on policy agendas. Increasingly, Africa is seen as a ‘hotspot’, with likely disease spillovers from animals to humans. This paper explores the social dynamics of disease exposure, demonstrating how risks are not generalised, but are related to occupation, gender, class and other dimensions of social difference. More details

PB117_FrontCover

The Global Importance of Including Mental Health Carers in Policy

IDS Policy Briefing 117 (2016)

Globally, there is growing awareness of the need to prioritise mental health as a development issue, with a historic step achieved by the inclusion of mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals. Less understood is the impact that providing care for people who are struggling with mental illness has on those who provide it. More details

IDS publications on international development research

How Can Research Programme Consortia Contribute to Capacity Development in Low and Middle Income Countries?

Key Message Brief 2 (2016)

Capacity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to conduct and apply evidence from health systems research is limited due to historically low investment in the field, fragmented funding with a predominance of very small scale grants, a lack of systematic approaches to capacity development, and limited direct investment in capacity development for health systems research. More details

IDS publications on international development research

How Learning-By-Doing Can Help Cut Through Complexity in Health Service Delivery

Key Message Brief 1 (2016)

There is no single solution for successfully scaling-up key interventions and reaching the poor. Implementation research, using tools and approaches that are inclusive, participatory, and flexible, is essential for “learning-by-doing” to understand what works best in a particular context. More details

ER181_FrontCover

Real-time Monitoring in Disease Outbreaks: Strengths, Weaknesses and Future Potential

IDS Evidence Report 181 (2016)

This Evidence Report analyses the potential contribution of epidemic real-time monitoring (ERTM) initiatives to enhancing and augmenting disease surveillance systems in developing countries. More details

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Improving Access to Health for Women and Girls in Low-income Urban Settlements

IDS Policy Briefing 110 (2016)

The world is becoming increasingly urbanised. Over one third of urban dwellers now reside in low-income urban settlements, where living conditions are often inadequate and there exist multiple barriers to access to health services for women and girls. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Control in China: Progress and Challenge

Infectious Diseases of Poverty 5 (2016)

China has the second highest caseload of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in the world. In 2009, the Chinese government agreed to draw up a plan for MDR-TB prevention and control in the context of a comprehensive health system reform launched in the same year. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Control in China: Progress and Challenges

Infectious Diseases of Poverty 5.9 (2016)

Along with the on-going Chinese health system reform, sustained government financing and social health protection schemes will be critical to ensure universal access to appropriate TB treatment in order to reduce risk of developing MDR-TB and systematic MDR-TB treatment and management. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Non-Medical Financial Burden in Tuberculosis Care: a Cross-Sectional Survey in Rural China

Infectious Diseases of Poverty 5 (2016)

Treatment of tuberculosis (TB) in China is partially covered by national programs and health insurance schemes, though TB patients often face considerable medical expenditures. For some, especially those from poorer households, non-medical costs, such as transport, accommodation, and nutritional supplementation may be a substantial additional burden. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Factors that Determine Catastrophic Expenditure for Tuberculosis Care: a Patient Survey in China

Infectious Diseases of Poverty 5 (2016)

Tuberculosis (TB) often causes catastrophic economic effects on both the individual suffering the disease and their households. A number of studies have analyzed patient and household expenditure on TB care, but there does not appear to be any that have assessed the incidence, intensity and determinants of catastrophic health expenditure (CHE) relating to TB care in China. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Factors that Determine Catastrophic Expenditure for Tuberculosis Care: A Patient Survey in China

Infectious Diseases of Poverty 5.6 (2016)

Tuberculosis (TB) often causes catastrophic economic effects on both the individual suffering the disease and their households. This paper aims to assess the incidence, intensity and determinants of catastrophic health expenditure (CHE) relating to TB care in China. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Promoting Women’s Attendance at ANC: Target Groups and Motivating Messages

ORIE Research Summary 11 (2016)

This report outlines the main findings of ORIE operations research on promoting women’s use of antenatal care (ANC) services. The study supports refinement of the advocacy strategy for this, implemented by the Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINNN) programme. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Whose Knowledge Matters? Trypanosomiasis Policymaking in Zambia

Zoonotic diseases – pathogens transmitted from animals to people – offer particularly challenging problems for global health institutions and actors, given the complex social-ecological dynamics at play. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Exclusive Breastfeeding and Early Initiation: Target Groups and Influential Messages

ORIE Research Summary 12 (2016)

This briefing outlines the findings from operations research on exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) and early initiation. The study supports refinement of the infant and young child feeding (IYCF) strategy implemented by the Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINNN) programme. More details

IDS publications on international development research

One Health: Science, Politics and Zoonotic Disease in Africa

Zoonotic diseases – pathogens transmitted from animals to people – offer particularly challenging problems for global health institutions and actors, given the complex social-ecological dynamics at play. More details

IDS publications on international development research

From promises to progress: assessing Nigeria's nutrition commitments

A report card on governance and community contexts for nutrition interventions, highlighting next steps in tackling child malnutrition. More details