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A comprehensive systems approach is needed to improve health innovation in developing countries, say Global Forum for Health Research members Stephen A. Matlin and Gill M.R. Samuels, as the international health community gathers in Havana, Cuba, for this year's forum.

The increasing shift from health research (e.g. biomedical) to research for health — that considers economic, environmental, political, and social drivers of health — highlights the growing complexity of the architecture of global health research, say the authors.

Improving the effectiveness, efficiency and impact of health strategies relies on acknowledging the global health innovation system as a whole, they argue.

A Global Health Research and Innovation System (GHRIS) approach recognises that innovation is both technological — for example inventing new materials — and social, for example finding new ways to manage people and information.

GHRIS incorporates a complex array of actors — from research institutions to funders — and infrastructure within an environment of drivers, incentives, promoters and barriers.

Understanding GHRIS can help identify ways of making the system more effective, say the authors.

It can also help answer key questions, including how well research resources are being spent, whether there is enough research on health problems in the developing world, and what incentives can be provided to boost research and development for drugs into neglected diseases.

Link to full article in The Lancet