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Health Systems Research Initiative

Launched in 2013, the Health Systems Research Initiative (HRSI) aims to generate world class and cutting-edge research that addresses key questions on strengthening and improving health systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and is jointly funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Medical  Research Council (MRC) and Wellcome, in collaboration with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Health systems research addresses questions that are not disease-specific but concern issues that have repercussions on the performance of the health system as a whole. We recognise that health systems are complex, and include not only formal health care delivery systems (public or private), but also include factors such as health education, community and individual action, the regulatory and legislative context and the existing and emerging social, economic and cultural circumstances. Research questions should be situated within an understanding of these broader health system linkages and describe how and why findings from the project have the potential to improve the health of people living in low- and middle-income countries.

The programme’s aims are to fund methodologically rigorous, high quality research that will:

  1. Generate evidence on how to strengthen and improve health systems for people living in LMICs.
  2. Use a health systems approach to inform the delivery of evidence-based interventions or structural changes. Proposals must demonstrate how interventions relate to and affect wider elements of a health system such as governance, financing, health workforce, information systems, service delivery etc.
  3. Provide evidence that is of direct relevance to decision makers and practitioners in the field.


Health Systems Research Initiative scheme review

After 6 funding calls were complete, the joint funders commissioned an independent review of the scheme, conducted by Technopolis, to understand the impact of HSRI funding and to determine if it was delivering its core aims.

The review concluded that overall, the HSRI objectives are being met. Methodologically rigorous and high-quality health policy and systems research is being funded, leading to growth in the body of evidence on health systems strengthening in LMICs, delivery of evidence-based interventions or health system reforms, evidence relevant for LMIC decision makers and practitioners, and capacity development among both researchers and research users.

The full report and infographics can be found here:


We have published a related blog titled ‘Why strengthening health systems is vital across the world’ on the UKRI website.

Previous Health Systems Research Initiative calls

Health Systems Research Initiative – call 8

Health Systems Research Initiative – call 7

Health Systems Research Initiative – call 6

Health Systems Research Initiative – call 5

All initial enquiries should be directed to the Medical Research Council: HSRI@mrc.ukri.org