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Launch of the India Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR) fellowship programme: a promising start for the Indian HPSR community in 2021

Launch of the India Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR) fellowship programme: a promising start for the Indian HPSR community in 2021

HPSR capacity building, an integral part of health system strengthening in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), was already gaining traction in recent times and the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted its importance in developing effective and resilient health systems.

Last year in March, a few of us made a call to action for strengthening the HPSR community in India through this forum. Today we are happy  to share some more information about a recently launched India HPSR fellowship programme by a consortium  of Indian and global health institutions.

While different aspects of health systems preparedness around the world are gradually being addressed, India has taken up the challenge of strengthening domestic HPSR capacity. Shri Rajesh Bhushan Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India and Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organisation (WHO) inaugurated the first India HPSR fellowship programme on 15th January 2021, indicating a high level of support for the course.

The fellowship programme aims to strengthen the capacity of mid-career public health researchers in HPSR through a blended training programme and by building a community of practice for peer support and engagement. It is steered by six Indian and global institutions including :  Health Systems Transformation Platform, Delhi,  Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru, The George Institute for Global Health, Delhi, The Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Nossal Institute for Global Health, University Of Melbourne, Australia, and The Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research. Prof Maharaj Kishan Bhan’s vision – to convene individuals and organizations to work together and transform primary healthcare in India, with linkages to national policy – inspires the overall idea of the programme.

The fellowship programme builds on the strengths of past HPSR courses in India like the Keystone programme and other training courses in LMICs calling for a demand-driven and participatory approach involving governments and other key stakeholders at state and local level to ensure a sustainable and embedded approach to HPSR development. The programme was developed through an iterative process seeking advice from over sixty Indian and global HPSR experts and informed by a Theory of Change  geared towards bringing about transformational policy change through locally grounded evidence, thus striving towards equity and health for all. Rounds of  expert consultation to review the design of the fellowship and the fellowship program structure and curriculum helped shape the course. Its content is adapted to the Indian policy context and local health system needs, orienting the fellows to the complexities and dynamic nature of the Indian health systems while using Indian illustrative case studies and simulations for teaching.

The course is designed as a blended programme of more than 18 months with a focus on peer learning. It includes online engagement for four months with a weekly lecture and a number of learning activities, a one-week face to face workshop, and a year-long implementation phase with mentorship support. It aims to engage the fellows in critical and collaborative HPSR practice, equip them to analyze health system issues by using a systems and complexity lens and enable the fellows to work in multi-disciplinary settings while carrying out ethical, people-centered research focusing on equity and social justice.

The selected twenty fellows come from disciplines of public health & health systems research and include professionals with locally grounded (experienced in “field realities”) experience in the health system-policy interface & program implementation. The fellows were selected through a competitive three-step process. The various profiles in the cohort exemplify the multidisciplinary nature of HPSR.

The course expects the fellows to invest 4-5 hours per week (during the online phase), thus allowing working professionals to follow the course while continuing their other professional commitments. The fellowship covers the cost of the fees for the course, travel for the programme and planned field visits. Seed grants are also available for (deserving) protocols for real-time “on-the-ground” implementation of HPSR learning from the fellowship programme.

Call to action

Via this forum, we would like to make a call to the HPSR community in India and abroad to join us in this endeavor of strengthening the HPSR community in India. We invite you to network with the fellows as they embark on their HPSR journey.  Please follow the fellowship website for more updates and join us at our HPSR community engagement forums.

Lastly, we extend our heartiest congratulations to the selected cohort of 2021 and hope they will contribute to generating health policy relevant evidence, and strengthen the HPSR community of practice in India.

If you would like to get in touch with us, email us at

Acknowledgements: We appreciate the inputs from Devaki Nambiar for revising this draft.   

About Sumegha Asthana

Independent Public Health Consultant, New Delhi

About Kranthi Vysyaraju

Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru

About Bruno Marchal

Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp

About Sumit Kane

Nossal Institute of Global Health, Australia

About Prashanth Nuggehalli Srinivas

Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru

About Sara Van Belle

Sara Van Belle is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium.

About Dorothy Lall

Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru

About N Devadasan

Health Systems Transformation Platform, New Delhi
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