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Implementation research for improved adolescent health in low and middle income countries

Please note this opportunity is now CLOSED.
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This call for proposals is supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Department for International Development (DFID). £3million is available. Please note: applications will be accepted from Principal Investigators based at organisations either in the UK or in Low, Lower-middle and Upper-middle income countries as highlighted on the OECD list.

Outline Proposals must be submitted via the JeS System.

WARNING: the call will not be live on JeS until 5th November 2015 but guidance for preparing your scientific proposal (‘case for support’) is available now.

The deadline for submission to JeS is 4pm on Thursday, 21 January 2016.


To generate evidence to inform the implementation and scale up of interventions for improving health in adolescent populations in low and middle income countries.  

Eligible applications will seek to:

  • Understand which interventions of known effectiveness are most appropriate for whom, in which contexts and why; and
  • Research how those interventions might best be implemented and scaled up in health (and/or other e.g. education) systems to achieve improved population level health outcomes.

Earlier phase research relevant to adolescent health, for instance basic, aetiological, epidemiological research and early development of interventions, is not eligible for this call for proposals but is welcome for submission to the MRC through our standard Research Boards and Panels, or the MRC’s Public Health Intervention Development grant scheme.


This call for proposals seeks to provide the research evidence needed to effect real and practical changes to improve adolescent health.   The focus of this call is therefore on implementation research.  Proposals should identify clearly the health issues and/or risk factors to be addressed and describe the pathway for how the proposed approach can be incorporated into systems to reach scale and lead to improved health outcomes. 

Interventional strategies can be broad, interdisciplinary and multi-faceted, addressing, for instance:

  • Implementation research into public health, behavioural, nutritional, contraception, safe abortion care and biomedical interventions to address major health challenges affecting adolescents.
  • Community health  and health systems approaches that are responsive to specific needs of adolescents, addressing, for instance, mental health care and substance abuse interventions.
  • Research into implementation and scale up of known perinatal stage interventions to improve the health and survival of adolescent mothers and newborns, and to prevent stillbirths.
  • Implementation research on intervention strategies which can form part of a life-course approach.  Eg.  scale -up of nutrition interventions to improve health of adolescents, which could positively impact future maternal and neonatal health outcomes, and contribute to the health of future generations.
  • Research to prevent sexually transmitted infections in adolescents, and research to implement care for HIV positive adolescents.
  • Population health research which includes consideration of wider determinants of adolescent health including interpersonal, community and environmental factors, lifestyle and socioeconomic impacts on health, and inequalities of health, and interventions to address them.

The research methods used should be clearly justified in the proposal indicating why they are the most appropriate and robust methodologies to address the proposed research questions.

Target Population

The regional focus for this call is low and middle income countries as defined in the DAC list of ODA recipients. The implementation strategies proposed should be designed to meet the most vulnerable groups within ODA recipient countries.

For this programme, adolescence is defined as between the ages of 10-19, although for some instances, it may be appropriate to consider implementation issues for a wider age group.  For instance, it may be necessary to address continuity of care before and after adolescence, or part of the research question might be to consider whether targeted approaches for adolescents are needed for a particular health issue. 

Proposals should consider the impact of gender on the adolescent health trajectory. Although some individual proposals may have a reason to focus on one gender our intention is to have a mixed portfolio of projects across the programme. If proposals focus on one gender, the reason for this should be justified in the proposal.

Please justify clearly in your proposal why you have chosen the selected populations and how the project will provide evidence for improvement of adolescent health.


Adolescence is a unique time in the life-course. There are many opportunities to better tailor existing health improvement strategies to ensure they serve the needs of specific adolescent groups. By improving health at this crucial stage, there is potential to have an effect on adolescents’ future health and that of their future children.  For example, a major emerging theme for improving maternal, neonatal and child health is to improve health at the pre-conception phase.  By intervening at adolescence, there is potential to improve girls’ health, have a preventative impact for their future health, and to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes.

While the aim to improve maternal and child health is an important part of the programme but is not the sole focus. The need to consider a broad range of health issues at this life-stage is increasingly recognised globally. For instance, the 2014 WHO report ‘Health for the world’s adolescents’ highlights some of the key challenges facing the world’s growing adolescent community:

  • The adolescent mortality rate is nine times higher in Africa than the rate in high income countries.  Globally the top five causes of mortality in adolescence are:  road injuries, HIV/AIDS, self-harm, lower respiratory infections and interpersonal violence. 
  • There are gender and regional differences.  For instance, in girls aged 15 to 19 complications in pregnancy are the second highest cause of mortality globally, and the leading cause in this age-group in the Eastern Mediterranean.  The overall highest cause of death of girls in this age group is self-harm and the highest cause of death in boys in this age-group is road injury
  • DALYs, however, do not fully reflect the start of health-related behaviours that affect future health such as use of tobacco, alcohol, poor diet and lack of exercise.

The remit of this programme is therefore broad and funders welcome proposals which address any major health issues that emerge at the adolescent phase of life.


JeS System opens for submission of outline applications 5 November 2015
Deadline for outline submission  21st January 2016 - 16:00 GMT
Outline panel meeting March 2016
JeS System opens for submission of full applications Late spring 2016
Full stage panel meeting Autumn 2016

How to apply

A complete guide to applying for this position has been created for applicants. For further information on how to apply to this call for proposals, please consult the MRC Applicants Handbook and our guidance for applicants pages

Applications will be accepted from Principal Investigators based at organisations in the UK and in Low, Lower-middle and Upper-middle income countries as highlighted on the OECD list.

Applicants are welcome to contact MRC Head Office for further information.

Contact details:

For all enquiries relating to your JeS application please contact the JeS helpdesk: JeSHelp@je-s.ukri.org

For all other enquiries please contact: 

Meriel Flint; meriel.flint@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk; +44 (0) 20 7395 2205

Aaron Holliday; aaron.holliday@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk +44 (0) 207 395 2370