Health Systems Research Initiative: Providing evidence to strengthen health systems in LMICs

Organisation:  Medical Research Council (MRC)

Apply By:  05 May . 2018

Health Systems Research Initiative: Providing evidence to strengthen health systems in LMICs

The Department for International Development (DFID), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust (WT) jointly fund the Health Systems Research Initiative. All funders are committed to funding world-class research with high potential for impact on policy and practice.

Launched in 2013 this programme will generate world class and cutting-edge research that addresses key questions on strengthening and improving health systems in developing countries. Following an excellent response to this programme from the research community, funding has now been secured for an annual call under this initiative until 2021.

The programme’s aims are to fund methodologically rigorous, high quality research that will:

1. Generate evidence on how to strengthen and improve health systems for people living in low- and middle-income countries.

2. Use a health systems approach to inform the delivery of evidence-based interventions or structural changes. Proposals must demonstrate how interventions relate to and affect wider elements of a health system such as governance, financing, health workforce, information systems, service delivery etc.

3. Provide evidence that is of direct relevance to decision makers and practitioners in the field.

Foundation Grants: (Applications for foundation grants will be reviewed at the October 2018 panel meeting following which funding decisions will be announced). The duration of foundation grants is between 12-18 months, with a maximum budget of £200k each. The purpose of a foundation grant is either: 

  • to conduct preliminary studies needed before a full research grant proposal can be designed, this can include work to evaluate existing interventions or pilot and feasibility work to inform plans for future research.
  • to explore possible health system innovations, under researched areas or creative approaches that have the potential to be developed further, however such proposals should also have practical applications and should not be purely conceptual.
  • Recipients of Foundation Grants will not automatically progress to full-scale research projects after their grant has ended. They will be expected to apply for a full-scale research project through the standard competitive process.

Foundation Grants

  • Feasibility work to identify the health system changes to improve delivery of key health interventions to underserved populations. e.g.  family planning, integrated provision of services, a package of measures for prevention and treatment of chronic conditions, quality improvements using various approaches.
  • Understanding inequality: developing a strategy to overcome barriers to MCH service uptake in urban communities.
  • Preliminary work to address how the range of healthcare providers (government, for-profit, not-for-profit) affect health service access for different groups in society.  How can this information be used to strengthen the health system and improve the health of different groups?
  • Developing an innovative approach to community-based models of care in health systems to respond to evolving demographic, economic and disease profiles.
  • How to capture user perspectives to understand the implications of task shifting practices for community health worker performance in relation to quality of care.

Geographical scope

Priority will be given to research that benefits the most vulnerable populations and/or those in poorly resourced settings. Whilst the funders recognise that many of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries, it is a specific objective of this programme to increase the body of research that is specifically relevant to low-income countries, whether through research in those countries or the ability to demonstrate the relevance of experience from middle income countries to low income countries. Applicants must illustrate how the proposed study will strengthen local LMIC health systems.

The funders aim for a significant majority of research projects within the portfolio to focus on low-income countries. For a full list of the countries that fall under the categories of low and middle income countries please refer to the OECD DAC list of ODA recipientsopens in new window. Research teams should include, or be led by, LMIC researchers while research questions and budgets should also reflect a focus on local contexts.

All countries of focus need to be adequately justified and a local need identified. The relevance of all countries involved in any multi-country study must also be justified.

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