Achieving universal health coverage (UHC) or ‘health for all’ by 2030 underpins the Sustainable Development Goal on health. This means that everyone should be protected from financial risk in accessing healthcare or services, and have access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines. To achieve this ambitious goal, IDS research and knowledge focuses on the strengthening of health systems, mutual learning and collaboration and reducing inequalities.   

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

  • Evidence is a foundation of the strong health systems needed to achieve UHC. 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.
  • Our current global health landscape has substantially changed since the first Declaration of Alma Ata in 1978. Achieving health for all requires unprecedented global cooperation and mutual learning between governments, philanthropic organisations, research institutions, civil society and pharmaceutical companies. 
  • Realising these goals will require us to address the poor or non-existent access of the most marginalised to affordable, quality health services. Health inequities - that is, unfair and avoidable difference in health associated with poverty, gender inequalities and other factors that marginalise large numbers of people. 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.
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Photo of Alex Shankland, IDS Research Fellow More details

Photo of Alex Shankland, IDS Research Fellow More details

Photo of IDS researcher Amber Huff More details

Photo of Annie Lowden More details

Photo of Annie Wilkinson More details

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

Photo of Becky Mitchell More details

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

Photo of Hayley MacGregor More details

Photo of Henry Lucas from Knowledge Technology and Society Team More details

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Photo of Inka Barnett More details

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

Photo of Jerker Edstrom More details

Jody Harris photo More details

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

Photo of Linda Waldman, KNOTS Research Fellow More details

Photo of Melissa Leach, IDS Director 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

Use this search to display this theme's publications and filter by journal, author, country and much more.

IDS publications on international development research

Health Human Resource Development in Rural China

Health Policy and Planning 12 (1997)
IDS publications on international development research

Health in Transition: Reforming China's Rural Health Services

IDS Bulletin 28.1 (1997)

This issue of the IDS Bulletin asks whether China will be able to maintain cost-effective rural health services as it is transformed into a market economy. The papers were prepared as contributions to an intense debate underway in China. More details

This is the cover of a Working Paper

Primary Health Care Meets the Market: Lessons from China and Vietnam

IDS Working Paper 53 (1997)

Many low and middle income countries are considering radical health sector reforms. Their policy-makers are asking fundamental questions about how services should be financed, the relationship between service providers and government, and the role of the state in ensuring that health services are cost-effective and equitable. More details

This is the cover of a Working Paper

Coping with the Costs of Severe Illness in Rural China

IDS Working Paper 58 (1997)

This paper provides a conceptual framework for understanding how households cope with the costs of severe illness and high medical fees. It presents the findings of a follow-up study of a household health expenditure survey in rural China. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Effective District Health Services in Developing Countries: A Busy Manager's Guide to the Literature

IDS Development Bibliography 13 (1996)

Literature on effective health management and planning is commonly inaccessible to district health managers in developing countries. This bibliography aims to direct managers towards the most useful publications. More details

IDS Working Paper

Financing Health Services in Poor Rural China: A Strategy for Health Sector Reform

IDS Working Paper 17 (1995)

This paper considers how the systems of finance and management of rural health services have changed due to economic reforms. More details

IDS Working Paper

Health Expenditure and Finance in Three Poor Counties of China

IDS Working Paper 21 (1995)

This paper contains reports on health expenditure and finance in the following poor counties in China: Donglan, in Guanxi; Shibing, in Guizhou; and Xunyi in Shaanxi. More details

IDS Research Report

Impact of Economic and Institutional Reforms on the Health Sector in Laos: Implications for Health System Management

IDS Research Report 28 (1995)

Laos suffered an economic crisis in the mid 1980s and has since been implementing a programme of economic and institutional reform. This report describes the Lao health system and analyses the impact of economic constraints and the reform programme on the health sector. More details

IDS Research Report

Financing Health Services in Poor Rural Areas: Adapting to Economic and Institutional Reform in China

IDS Research Report 30 (1995)

In-depth research in three poor counties in China provides a unique picture of the impact of economic and institutional reform on health services in areas where development lags behind the rest of the country. More details

This is the cover of the IDS Policy Briefing series

Paying for Health: New Lessons from China

IDS Policy Briefing 4 (1995)

China's rural health services provided a model for the rest of the world during the 1970s. Since then, China has been undergoing a shift to a market economy. This has had a radical impact on the health sector. More details

IDS Research Report

Quality of Public Health Services and Household Health Care Decisions in Rural Communes of Vietnam

IDS Research Report 27 (1994)

The report describes a systematic household study of health care seeking behaviour and of the quality of commune health care in four rural communes in the north of Vietnam, during 1992-93. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Expenditure and Financing of the Health Sector in Kenya: Abridged Report of a Study Performed for the Ministry of Health and the World Bank

This Study provides one of the most detailed country profiles to date of health expenditure and financing flows in sub-Saharan Africa. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Gender and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Cases of Uganda and Malawi

BRIDGE Report 13 (1993)

This report discusses the gender dimensions of the impact of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on Uganda and some reference to Malawi. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Gender and Primary Health Care: Some Forward Looking Strategies

IDS Bulletin 23.1 (1992)

While health has always been seen as an integral aspect of development planning, the significance attached to it has varied according to the debates about development in the wider sense. More details