Health

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

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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

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IDS publications on international development research

Saving Money, Saving Lives: Community Saving Groups Lead to Improvements in Maternal and Newborn Health Care in Uganda

Future Health Systems Stories of Change 6 (2016)

Future Health Systems (FHS) work on maternal and newborn health in the poorest districts of eastern Uganda has contributed to a story of community empowerment where people have learnt to prioritise, prepare and save money for childbirth. This increases the likelihood of delivery in a health facility, and therefore the chances of a healthy pregnancy and safe childbirth under skilled care. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Enhancing Social Accountability for Health Care in Afghanistan

Future Health Systems Stories of Change 3 (2016)

In the United States and parts of Africa and Asia, community scorecards (CSCs) have improved accountability and responsiveness of services. Work supported by Future Health Systems (FHS) sought to evaluate CSC feasibility in a fragile context (Afghanistan) through joint engagement of service providers and community members in the design of patient-centred services, to assess impact on service delivery and perceived quality of care (QOC). More details

IDS publications on international development research

Through the Lens: Empowering Women in Vulnerable Communities to Voice their Concerns

Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodologies can help empower marginalised groups to capture and articulate their experiences and concerns to decision-makers. Future Health Systems (FHS) has worked with women in the Sundarbans of West Bengal to use Photovoice – a PAR method using photographs and narrative – to raise awareness of the challenges the women face to access health care. The initiative has led local policymakers and health workers to prioritise, and take steps to address, the issues. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Consequences and Futures of Inequalities (an introduction to Part II)

If we continue on the pathway of growing inequality, what will the consequences be? What are the possibilities of alternative pathways which take us to a fairer world? What will be the critical tipping points along the way? More details

IDS Policy Briefing 123 Front Cover

Towards Mutual Learning with the Rising Powers

IDS Policy Briefing 123 (2016)

Mutual learning is emerging as a new way of talking about the ‘how’ of development cooperation, particularly in contexts of rapid change, with countries increasingly recognising that they have much to learn from each other’s experience. More details

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

This brief provides an overview of the Independent Evaluation of the Reduction of Maternal and Neonatal Mortality in Kenya Programme. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Galvanising Gender Analysis and Practice in Health Systems

Future Health Systems Key Message Brief 4 (2016)

Gender analysis is an important component of health systems research (HSR) as it reveals how power relations create inequalities in health system needs, experiences, and outcomes among women, men, and people of other genders. Various challenges must be overcome to successfully mainstream gender into health systems practice and research. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Working with Health Workers to Improve Maternal Health Services

Poor quality of maternal and newborn health services in Uganda have resulted in low maternal health service utilisation and high newborn mortality rates, both at home and at health facilities. The support Future Health Systems (FHS) provided to health workers to improve maternal health service delivery illustrates how a package of interventions that equips health workers with the necessary knowledge, skills and equipment, supplies and other non-financial incentives can improve the quality of maternal and newborn health service delivery. More details

Front cover of IDS Evidence Report 202

Building Mutual Learning between the Rising Powers

IDS Evidence Report 202 (2016)

This Evidence Report provides a summary account of the Mutual Learning research initiative at the Institute of Development Studies, carried out from 2012 to 2014 as part of the Rising Powers in International Development programme. More details

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 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