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Blog Post

Sun, sea and scale-up in San Diego

by Dr Neil Spicer

published 2 April 2012

In a rural village in Uttar Pradesh, India, there is a simple health innovation that works: safe birthing practices are being disseminated at a women’s self-help group. Although hugely successful, it’s only been introduced in that village’s district. If this health innovation was rolled out or adopted across similar districts, it would benefit a large number of people.

I study the scale-up of innovations. My work is about understanding the best ways to ensure health innovations reach more people, including how to overcome barriers to achieving this.

It’s in this capacity that I flew to beautiful La Jolla in California for an inspiring meeting on ‘Achieving Impact at Scale’ (read last years’ meeting report); it helped me to see my work differently and gave IDEAS an exciting new opportunity to contribute to accelerating the uptake of innovations.

Is the health system ready?

All of us at the meeting wanted to find out what organisations can do to get a country’s health system ready to take on a health innovation that works on the small scale. Which theories and models can be used to predict the spread of health innovations? What are the challenges to using these models and how can we test them in real world settings? A new model on how to test whether health systems are ready for the spread of health innovations in low-income countries was presented at the meeting by Kaiser Permanente’s Centre for Health Dissemination and Implementation Research. Their model focussed on how an organisation with a successful health innovation can build relationships and trust with other organisations in order to help people accept this new health approach. It helped me to think about the relationships between the different groups of people that are instrumental in getting health innovations taken up at scale.

How can IDEAS accelerate scale-up?

I will soon start to collect data from in-depth interviews with key stakeholders in all the countries IDEAS is working in. I’ll be asking them what helps and hinders the take up of innovations. This data could help to predict how innovations get picked up at the large scale and also how organisations could accelerate this scale-up.

Sadly, I had to leave the beautiful beaches of La Jolla and return to the UK with its temperamental April showers. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to continuing the conversation on how to achieve family health impact at scale. By the end of the year we expect to have some real data to help us find out how successful health innovations can be scaled-up to benefit more people.


Profile picture of Dr Neil Spicer
Dr Neil Spicer

Associate Professor