India, the world’s 10th largest economy, has witnessed a decline in the incidence of poverty during the last few decades largely due to economic liberalization. But one-third of its population still remain below the poverty line subsisting on less than a dollar a day. With economic advancement has come new vulnerabilities, inequalities, and insecurities in all development areas, including health.
Research in the second half of the century established that poor are less entitled to public subsidies and more likely to financial shock owing to out of pocket expenditures on health.
The situation is understandably worse for regions like the Sundarbans in West Bengal, where poverty stricken islanders have to cope with adverse geo-climatic conditions. Against this backdrop the FHS India research initiative was launched with the guiding principle of “putting the poor first”.
FHS Phase 1
In the initial phase of FHS India, research was carried out to gain a systematic understanding of determinants and consequences of inequity in health, healthcare, healthcare utilization and healthcare financing. Towards the later part of the research period, FHS India focused on the Sundarbans, a chronically handicapped region of West Bengal.
For the first time, FHS India generated systematic evidence on burden of ill-health in the Sundarbans based on household surveys, chronic morbidities suffered by older adults, healthcare utilization, choice of providers, issues in access to healthcare amidst extreme geographical barriers and issues in maternal and child healthcare. Further, a preliminary understanding of the healthcare delivery mechanisms in the Sundarbans was also gathered through a systematic survey of public health facilities, semi/unskilled rural medical practitioners and charitable trusts.
One of the major focus areas of FHS I was to build up a partnership for research that will be successful in influencing health policy and service delivery mechanism in the state of West Bengal.
FHS Phase 2
Evidence-based research from the first phase identified a need for greater community exposure, learning and identification of key systemic gaps and mitigation strategies. Through audience friendly communication methods, technology use, health services provider training and a prompt, need-based support, in this phase FHS India will work to formulate a feasible and comprehensive strategy for tackling health service delivery in the Sundarbans.
For the next five years, FHS India will concentrate on research focusing on systematic understanding of the multidimensional nature of crisis in child healthcare access in delta region of the Sundarbans. However, given that child health care shares the common fundamental problems with overall primary health care system, the uptake of research is expected to significantly impact the overall system.
We are planning operational research that will be piloted to learn about and demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed model.
A common knowledge platform will be established, which helps to establish a communication link not only between the FHS team and the stakeholders but also among the stakeholders themselves.
A Centre for Sundarban Studies will be established to operationalize the concept, which as an institutional body, will generate more resources to provide research and technical support to local stakeholders.
FHS Partners in India
News and announcements from FHS India
Recent FHS India publications
Paina L, Wilkinson A, Tetui M, Ekirapa-Kiracho E, Barman D, Ahmed T, Mahmood SS, Bloom G, Knezovich J, George A and Bennett S (2017) Using Theories of Change to inform implementation of health systems research and innovation: experiences of Future Health Systems consortium partners in Bangladesh, India and Uganda, Health Research Policy and Systems, 15(Suppl 2):109, DOI: 10.1186/s12961-017-0272-y
The Theory of Change (ToC) is a management and evaluation tool supporting critical thinking in the design, implementation and evaluation of development programmes. We document the experience of Future Health Systems (FHS) Consortium research teams in Bangladesh, India and Uganda with using ToC. We seek to understand how and why ToCs were applied and to clarify how they facilitate the implementation of iterative intervention designs and stakeholder engagement in health systems research and strengthening.
The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change concluded that although climate change was the biggest public health threat of the 21st century, tackling it could be the greatest global health opportunity. All South Asian countries have ratified the Paris agreement, committing to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop systems to respond to the effects of climate change. However, climate change is not yet given priority in countries’ health agendas. The effect on the poorest and most vulnerable in society is also often neglected in the climate change discourse.
The authors examine the health effects of climate change in South Asian countries and current strategies to address these, and recommend an inclusive approach to climate change adaptation planning in the region.
Thow AM, Karn S, Devkota MD, Rasheed S, Roy SK, Suleman Y, Hazir T, Patel A, Gaidhane A, Puri S, Godakandage S, Senarath U and Dibley MJ (2017) Opportunities for strengthening infant and young child feeding policies in South Asia: Insights from the SAIFRN policy analysis project, BMC Public Health, 17(Suppl 2):404 DOI: 10.1186/s12889-017-4336-2
South Asian countries experience some of the highest levels of child undernutrition in the world, strongly linked to poor infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices. Strong and responsive policy support is essential for effective interventions to improve IYCF. This study aimed to identify opportunities for strengthening the policy environment in the region to better support appropriate infant and young child feeding.
Uddin S, Mahmood H, Senarath U, Zahiruddin Q, Karn S, Rasheed S and Dibley M (2017) Analysis of stakeholders networks of infant and young child nutrition programmes in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, BMC Public Health, 17(Suppl 2):405, DOI: 10.1186/s12889-017-4337-1
Effective public policies are needed to support appropriate infant and young child feeding (IYCF) to ensure adequate child growth and development, especially in low and middle income countries. The aim of this study was to: (i) capture stakeholder networks in relation to funding and technical support for IYCF policy across five countries in South Asia (i.e. Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan); and (ii) understand how stakeholder networks differed between countries, and identify common actors and their patterns in network engagement across the region.
Vadrevu L and Kanjilal B (2016) Measuring spatial equity and access to maternal health services using enhanced two step floating catchment area method (E2SFCA) – a case study of the Indian Sundarbans, International Journal for Equity in Health, 15: 87, doi:10.1186/s12939-016-0376-y
Inaccessibility due to terrain and lack of transport leaves mothers travelling for long hours before reaching a facility to deliver a child. In the present article we analyzed the issue of spatial inaccessibility and inequity of maternal health services in the Indian Sundarbans where complex topography and repeated climatic adversities make access to health services very difficult.