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


Health Systems Research Initiative call- 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.

This is the fifth annual call for the Health Systems Research Initiative. Up to £6 million is available for funding proposals under this call. Innovative proposals are sought from across the public health, social and biomedical sciences and must clearly identify what health system challenge is being addressed. Proposals must situate this clearly-defined challenge within an understanding of the broader health system linkages and describe how and why findings from the project have the potential to improve the health of people living in low and middle-income countries. Funding is available for research only; we will not fund the routine delivery of health services.

Read also:  11th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health

Projects with Principal Investigators (P-Is) from LMICs are strongly encouraged and all proposals must include Co-Investigators from the LMIC in which the research is taking place. Principal investigators can be based in the UK or any LMIC.

Research Grants: (Applications for research grants will be subject to a 2-stage review process. Only those successful at the outline stage will be invited to submit a full application and final funding decisions will be made in October 2018). The duration of a research grant is usually up to 3 years, with a maximum duration of 5 years. Small and larger-scale projects are invited.  As a guide, applicants should note there is approx. £4 m available for Research Grants under this call. Funders would like to fund 5-10 projects. 

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:  

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


Research Grants

  • How can health systems better meet the needs of specific groups in countries emerging from fragility and conflict?
  • How can Ministries of Health engage other sectors e.g. education, social and legal systems to strengthen policies that promote health and well-being in developing contexts?
  • How do leadership and governance issues affect the effective implementation of health systems strengthening strategies?
  • What is the relationship between health systems and new ways of working, for example, how responsive and adaptable are health systems to incorporating new technologies and products?
  • What is the role of private sectors actors within health systems and what are the effects of different system interventions on both public and private sector actors? 

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.

How to apply  

Proposals must be submitted to Je-S by the call deadline:
Outline Grants: Tuesday 30 January 2018
Foundation Grants: Tuesday 5 June 2018
Proposals can only be accepted by electronic submission through the Je-S system
If you have any technical issues with the Je-S system please contact Je-S helpdesk at Guidance on this system can be found in the Je-S handbook
Please contact with queries about applying to this funding scheme or scheme eligibility.

Full details on how to apply to this scheme are in the scheme specific guidance on the MRC website.

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