A new father cradles his newborn, India. Photo: Ted Mathys, 2009 The Advocacy Project Fellow
In a rural village in Uttar Pradesh, India, there is a simple health innovation that works: fathers-to-be are sent a letter in the voice of their unborn child asking the father to take care of the newborn and mother’s health . Although hugely successful, in part because of the involvement of men in health-seeking behaviour, it’s only been introduced in certain districts. If health innovations such as this were rolled out or adopted across similar districts, a large number of people would benefit, potentially saving the lives of mothers and newborns across India.
I study the scale-up of innovations. My work is about understanding the best ways to ensure health innovations reach more people, including how to overcome barriers to achieving this.
It’s in this capacity that I flew to beautiful La Jolla in California for an inspiring Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation meeting on ‘Achieving Lasting Impact at Scale’; it helped me to see my work differently and gave IDEAS (Informed Decisions for Actions) an exciting new opportunity to contribute to accelerating the uptake of innovations.
Is the health system ready for your innovation?
All of us at the meeting wanted to find out what organisations can do to get a country’s health system ready to take on a health innovation that works on the small scale. Which theories and models can be used to predict the spread of health innovations? What are the challenges to using these models and how can we test them in real world settings?
A new model on how to test whether health systems are ready for the spread of health innovations in low-income countries was presented at the meeting by Kaiser Permanente’s Centre for Health Dissemination and Implementation Research. Their model focussed on how an organisation with a successful health innovation can build relationships and trust with other organisations in order to help people accept this new health approach. It helped me to think about the relationships between the different groups of people that are instrumental in getting health innovations taken up at scale.
How can IDEAS accelerate scale-up?
IDEAS aims to improve the health and survival of mothers and babies through generating evidence to inform policy and practice. Working in Ethiopia, North-Eastern Nigeria and the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, IDEAS uses measurement, learning and evaluation to find out what works, why and how in maternal and newborn health programmes.
I will soon start to collect data from in-depth interviews with key stakeholders in all the countries IDEAS is working in. I’ll be asking them what helps and hinders the take up of innovations. This data could help to predict how innovations that improve newborn health get picked up at the large scale and also how organisations could accelerate this scale-up.
Sadly, I had to leave the beautiful beaches of La Jolla and return to the UK with its temperamental May showers. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to continuing the conversation on how to achieve family health impact at scale. By the end of the year we expect to have some real data to help us find out how successful health innovations can be scaled-up to benefit more people.
- Find out more about Dr Neil Spicer’s work at the IDEAS Website
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