Nine innovations chosen for financial support, technical assistance, and peer learning. Each innovation ensures continuity of essential health services and offers longer-term, wider health system benefits, relevant for strengthening the system during the pandemic and beyond.
We have exciting news to share! After many weeks of reviewing submissions of innovations to the COVIDaction Resilient Health Systems call, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO, formerly DFID) and its partners are proud to announce the 9 grantees. It has been an extraordinary job selecting from so many applicants (over 550!), and then designing financial and non-financial support packages for the awardees.
The Resilient Health Systems call sought innovations focused on supporting countries to continue delivery of essential health services (e.g., maternal and child health, noncommunicable diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, etc.), which are facing major disruptions as a result of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with decades of progress threatened. The call invited innovations that respond to two resilience themes in order to support country health systems to better absorb the shocks from the current crisis, maintain services and functions throughout, and build back better:
- Innovations that extend the reach and continuity of support from hospitals and clinics to households and communities — changing the delivery model of health services to enable prevention, health promotion, health education, surveillance, and service delivery.
- Innovations that improve the collection and use of data — decreasing fragmentation of data systems and optimisation and integration of existing systems, digital platforms, technologies, and human resources.
Addressing these themes, a subset of the innovations are focused on ensuring access to health services, commodities and information, and a subset are focused on improving data and evidence to support decision making and action. Taken together, they tackle different components of system strengthening and aim to leave no one behind, targeting last mile communities, urban slum dwellers, refugees, and other vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.
Describing the portfolio of 9 Resilient Health Systems innovations, Magdalena Banasiak, Senior Innovation Adviser at FCDO who manages the COVIDaction programme, stated:
“Building resilient health systems is a complex endeavour and necessitates working on different components of the system. The diverse innovations in this portfolio are at different maturity levels, tackling different system vulnerabilities, and facing different integration and scaling challenges. Through supporting these projects over the course of the next year, FCDO is particularly excited about the potential for global learning about scaling and integrating health innovations in a systemic way, and we’re committed to sharing our learning along the way.”
— Magda Banasiak, Senior Innovation Adviser, FCDO
And now…the moment everyone has been waiting for! Here are the awardees, who represent fewer than 2% of the call’s applicants!
Changing Service Delivery Model Grantees
This multisectoral partnership is establishing a platform for local pharmacy owners in Bangladesh to connect end beneficiaries with primary healthcare doctors using pharmacy logistics as a local telemedicine hub. The partners will be increasing access to quality health services for the most disadvantaged, leveraging and integrating their e-learning application for rural health workers, mCare, and their consumer application for remote doctor consultations, Digital Hospital (formerly TONIC).
The Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) in Uganda is assuring continuity of quality care through their Digital Prevention, Care and Treatment (D-PCT) innovation, which accelerates remotely accessible health services for people living with HIV and tuberculosis. IDI is deploying its interactive voice response tool (Call for Life) and pharmacy refill app (ARTAccess) in clinics and pharmacies to address overcrowded health facilities, healthcare worker shortages, and problems with access to medicines due to gaps in supply chain systems and infrastructure.
🏆 Kenya Healthcare Federation, Amref Health Africa, & Partners
This strategic partnership was formed in direct response to pandemic restrictions imposed by the Government of Kenya, and is composed of the Kenya Healthcare Federation, Amref Health Africa, Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Nairobi Metropolitan Health Department, Bolt, rescue.co, TeleSky, and the University of Nairobi. The partners’ Wheels for Life innovation provides teleconsultations to pregnant women and taxi or ambulance services for pregnancy-related emergencies, tackling transport challenges which are relevant during lockdown periods in addition to normal times.
mDoc Healthcare is a digital health social enterprise, based in Nigeria, that leverages Quality Improvement, behavioural science, and digital technology to reduce the chronic disease burden in Africa. mDoc’s innovation, CompleteHealth, offers integrated care support to people with chronic health needs by providing self-management techniques digitally and in-person, while also helping health care providers to deliver evidence-based care. mDoc is prioritising technology augmentation and testing to strengthen its platform to provide self-care support for low-income users.
Improving Data Collection & Use Grantees
GBCHealth and Greenmash are working with the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) project to roll out Mango in the Sahel, a mobile application platform to improve commodity tracking, reduce stock-outs, and enhance timely data essential in managing outbreaks, treatments, and health education. Their partnership is focused on increasing access to commodities while bringing efficiencies to supply chain management, which directly relates to one of SWEDD’s priority interventions: reinforcing the regional availability of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child health and nutrition (RMNCHN) commodities and qualified health workers.
Living Goods is partnering with the Kenya Ministry of Health (MOH) and other stakeholders to select, develop, and implement an Electronic Community Health Information System (eCHIS). The eCHIS is part of the MOH’s broader agenda to establish a robust, interoperable end to end health information system, resolving challenges of fragmented data and suboptimal data use and exchange of information from communities and health facilities, to county and national levels. The eCHIS will feed quality, timely data from the community up to the national level, fitting into the defined national health system architecture.
The partners are integrating Smart Paper Technology (SPT) in health facilities in refugee-hosting districts in Uganda. SPT is a simple solution (hybrid paper-digital) that counts uncounted women and children, reduces health workers’ time doing administrative tasks, generates accurate programmatic and supply chain data, improves governance and accountability at all levels, and promotes cost-effective, sustainable and appropriate solutions. Medical Teams International & Shifo Foundation are working with the Government of Uganda to ultimately scale SPT across Uganda, and eventually other refugee-hosting countries.
Source Code’s mHealth platform, PENSA *660#, is a free multi-channel and bi-directional platform that runs on all mobile network operators in Mozambique and is designed to distribute health information and services to all Mozambicans, including those living in rural areas and using low-tech phones. Source Code is working with the Ministry of Health to ensure that policymakers and practitioners effectively engage with and take action on data collected from their citizenry, and is also working to augment the platform based on user requirements.
The Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in partnership with Premise, has developed ASSURE — Assessing Signals and SUpporting REsilience. ASSURE is a health system risk monitoring and evaluation system. The system uses digital and statistical tools to spot early warning signals of confidence losses in health systems or interventions, geolocates misinformation, and forecasts uptake rates of routine immunisation and a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Their project in Nigeria, with technical support from the Africa CDC and Africa Union, confronts potential long-term impacts of COVID-19 exacerbating loss of confidence in health systems, driven by fear, distrust, misinformation, or negative experiences.
🚀 Not just about the money
Though financial support is important to bring these projects to fruition, it is not all the grantees need in order to succeed. COVIDaction is also supporting these organisations and partnerships with technical assistance, including networking and profile-raising, and cross-innovation peer learning. As we kick off one-year demonstration projects with each of the grantees, we will further define packages of technical assistance, including business model support and sustainability planning, technology development support, ecosystem connections, and so on.
If you are a donor organisation or private investor with an interest in supporting these grantees to build health system resilience, let’s connect! We invite you to join us to help scale and integrate these innovations. Pivoting from a focus on the innovation call to the research and learning journey ahead, we look forward to sharing our lessons and reflections on scaling, integration, multi-sectoral partnerships, ecosystem enablers, and so on.
🙏 Wrapping up the innovation call
The COVIDaction team is very grateful to FCDO for the opportunity to lead this call, recognising the importance of strengthening health systems and emphasising the maintenance of essential health services while so much attention is on the direct response to COVID-19. We are also grateful to FCDO for expanding the funding envelope to support many more grantees at a more generous level than originally planned.
We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the health systems and digital health experts who helped us through the review process of all the submissions, and whose feedback was instrumental in arriving at the Top 30 finalists. We also thank the many FCDO experts who provided their critical reviews to inform the final grantee selection.
Finally, we were so inspired by the many great innovations submitted to the call. There is a strong community of innovators supporting countries to build resilient health systems through the pandemic and beyond, and we are eager to continue to learn from their efforts.
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