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Better measurement for better maternal and newborn health: A new ten million dollar grant for research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

published 14 November 2016

The IDEAS project is pleased to announce a second phase of work until 2020 with a new $10 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What is IDEAS?

IDEAS (Informed DEcisions for ActionS in maternal and newborn health) aims to improve the health and survival of mothers and babies in Ethiopia, Nigeria and India by generating evidence to inform maternal and newborn health policy and practice.

Measurement, learning and evaluation is at the heart of IDEAS’ work as the multi-disciplinary team continue to focus on what works, why and how in maternal and newborn health programmes, drawing on expertise in epidemiology, statistics, economics, qualitative research, health systems, political science, communications and knowledge management.

What will phase two look like?

Phase two of IDEAS will focus on six outcome areas:

  1. Tracking progress in coverage of critical, live-saving interventions for mothers and newborn babies, with six-monthly updates
  2. Promoting the use of local data in local health decision-making
  3. Improving coverage measurement for mothers and newborns
  4. Understanding how quality-improvement works
  5. Sustainability
  6. Partner engagemen

“Phase two of IDEAS will support the maternal, newborn and child health team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and their implementation grantees in tracking progress towards clearly defined coverage goals in the three focus geographies of Nigeria, Ethiopia and India” said Professor Joanna Schellenberg, Principal Investigator of IDEAS.

“IDEAS has an important role in generating data, in synthesis of findings, and in supporting decision-making at both local and global level. By improving measurement and promoting learning in maternal and newborn health we hope that coverage targets for evidence-based, live-saving interventions can be reached”, she added.

Building on six years of experience of measurement, learning and evaluation work in Nigeria, Ethiopia and India, in phase two there is greater emphasis on tracking the progress of coverage of maternal and newborn interventions, developing methods to improve coverage measurement, understanding more about quality improvement, and building stronger links to global technical groups to ensure our research is relevant and timely.

There is strong demand from government actors for the promotion and use of local data for decision-making – not just in relation to maternal and newborn health, but also from a broader health systems perspective. In phase two, IDEAS will build on momentum for data-driven action in Nigeria and in India by supporting the use of local data for decision-making. Similarly in Ethiopia, we will work in close collaboration with a sister project – “Dagu”.

Finally, work from phase one of IDEAS on learning about scale-up will transition to focus on sustainability, providing a strong body of evidence to foster lasting impact at scale in the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals.

What did we learn in phase one?

IDEAS will present some highlights of the first phase of work in Ethiopia, Nigeria and India in a satellite session at the Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Vancouver on November 15th entitled ‘Measurement, learning and evaluation for maternal and newborn health’. The session is co-chaired by John Grove (Deputy Director, Evidence and Policy –  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and will feature a number of IDEAS’ partners from over the years who will be sharing their stories and insights and engaging the audience in a lively debate.

There will four presentations by IDEAS researchers broadly under the themes of: ‘Characterising Change’, ‘Data Driven Action’, ‘Scaling-Up Innovations’ and ‘District Level Data for Decision Making’.

More details can be found at A blog by IDEAS’ Principal Investigator, Professor Joanna Schellenberg, on some of the highlights from phase one can be read at the Health Systems Global website.

Lookup #MLE4MNCH on Twitter for a live broadcast of the session and in early 2017 watch out for blogs and videos from the IDEAS team at Vancouver!