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Open Call: Building Resilient Health Systems through the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

Updated on Jun 18, 2020 796 views
Open Call: Building Resilient Health Systems through the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

What is the role of technology in building the resilience of health systems?

How can we use technology platforms and innovations to change the delivery models of health services, enabling prevention, health promotion, health education, surveillance, and service delivery?

How do we engage communities to increase trust in the health system, ensuring that people seek care when appropriate, and follow public health advice?

Which processes exist for collection and use of data to enable surveillance useful for immediate COVID-19 response and continued delivery of essential health services?

COVIDaction is issuing an open call to explore answers to these questions, surface technology and process innovations that address current challenges, and connect the most promising ideas with those supporting health systems in Africa and South Asia.


As part of the COVIDaction initiative, the Department for International Development (DFID) and its partners are pleased to announce the launch of the Resilient Health Systems Open Call for Innovations. The Open Call will explore the role of technology and innovations in supporting countries and their development partners to build resilient health systems as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

We know from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that reductions in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) services persisted well beyond the crisis, and preventable deaths from measles, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis actually eclipsed deaths from Ebola due to service disruptions. Experts are concerned about the same patterns repeating with COVID-19. We are already seeing a decline in vaccination rates, facility births, and other health services as a result of the pandemic — and, as a result, there is a critical need to support countries in their efforts to maintain these essential health services.

The Open Call aims to focus attention and build community around an important part of the pandemic response: the maintenance of essential health services (RMNCAH, noncommunicable diseases, nutrition, malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, etc.). These services are threatened by reduced access and limited utilisation due to resources being diverted for COVID-19 response, population hesitancy to seek care, postponement of routine and elective services, among other reasons.


We believe data and technology innovations have an important role to play in supporting countries to build resilient health systems through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

COVIDaction invites applicants to submit innovations that have potential to address the biggest vulnerabilities of low- and lower-middle-income countries to be able to maintain essential health services while responding effectively to the immediate COVID-19 crisis. These vulnerabilities include:

1. Technology platforms and process innovations that support changes in the delivery models of health services, enabling prevention, health promotion, health education, surveillance, and service delivery. Focus areas may include:

  • Engaging Communities: Many country responses to COVID-19 have been critiqued as ‘top down’ with limited civil society participation. Strong community engagement and access to data, information, and decision-making is needed so the public maintains trust in the health system, ensuring that people seek care when appropriate, and follow public health advice.
  • Extending the reach, coordination, and continuity of services: Use of technology can facilitate coordinated, data-driven approaches to extend the reach and continuity of support from hospitals and clinics to households and communities, while reducing the burden on health facilities and risk to health workers and patients. While technology can often be deployed haphazardly during a crisis, there is potential for acceleration of digital transformation and increased scale of digital health innovations during the pandemic.

2. Improved collection and use of data to enable surveillance useful for immediate COVID-19 response and tracking of other health conditions, and continued delivery of essential health services. Focus areas may include:

  • Decreasing Fragmentation: The current data systems architecture in many settings thwarts effective response, as data systems are often fragmented — held by public and private sector providers, reporting to different government ministries, and involving myriad health workers and communities. How can health systems bring these pieces of the puzzle (data sources and actors) together to enable system-level data-driven decision making?
  • Optimising and Integrating: Technologies and innovations should focus on optimisation and integration of existing health information systems, digital platforms, technologies and human resources to achieve whole of system improvements in data availability and use. Goals should be increased timeliness, completeness, and increased capacity for effective use by different actors (including civil society and communities).
  • Data May Include: 1) Accurate and timely mortality data (including likely cause of death) to track pandemic and possible collateral effects, 2) Data to enable targeted service delivery (e.g., data on the specific vulnerable groups/households that need or have received key preventive, promotive, curative, and palliative services), and 3) Aggregated population-level data about needed essential health services.

Addressing these vulnerabilities will support country health systems to better absorb the shocks from the current crisis, maintain services and functions throughout, and bounce back more quickly upon its conclusion. While tackling these vulnerabilities will not by themselves fully lead to resilience, we expect to see a positive impact on decision making, prioritisation, and targeting of the response, along with better preparedness for future shocks.

We are interested in data and technology innovations that:

  • Respond to country demand and address a well-defined challenge, linked to a particular country/context in Africa and/or South Asia.
  • Offer a replicable and effective solution. Evidence of effectiveness (and cost-effectiveness) in improving reach, coordination, and continuity of services is desired.
  • Are ready to be deployed. (We are not looking for innovations in the proof-of-concept stage.)
  • Are feasible for adaptation (as necessary), implementation, integration with the public and private sector, and/or implementation at scale. Scaling up plans are encouraged, along with potential cost implications.
  • Optimise existing systems through improved processes/platforms, management structures, partnerships, capacity building, country-led change processes, etc.
  • Offer potential longer-term, wider health system benefits, relevant for strengthening the delivery of health services beyond the pandemic.


Selected applicants will receive:

  1. Catalytic financing up to £200,000 from DFID to help adapt, integrate, and scale your solution.
  2. Inclusion in Resilient Health Systems Innovation matchmaking events for onward collaboration between donors, investors, and the most promising innovations.
  3. Connections to world leading experts for how best to adapt, integrate, and scale your solution.


Applications will be evaluated using a two-stage selection process. In Stage 1, applicants will submit a brief proposal via an online application form. Applications will be reviewed by a selection panel comprising experts from DFID, other funders, and other technology and health system experts. Applications will be scored based on their strategic relevance to the call theme, transformational impact, feasibility, and collaboration and commitment amongst partners/stakeholders.

The highest-ranking applicants will be shortlisted and advanced to Stage 2. They will be invited to virtual Resilient Health Systems Innovation matchmaking events, where innovators will be connected with donors and investors for onward collaboration.


To apply, please see hereExpect to spend 1 hour to complete the form.

Nous acceptons les applications en français. Si vous souhaitez une version française du formulaire, veuillez envoyer votre demande à l’e-mail ci-dessous.


Applications open: Thursday, 28th May

Questions due: Thursday, 11th June

Application deadline: Thursday, 18th June (11:59pm GMT)

Innovation matchmaking events: 30th June–10th July

Final selection for Stage 2: Friday, 10th July

Read More About this Call Here

Application Link

Staff Writer

This article was written and edited by a staff writer.

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