The objective of this study is to examine how the spread of the mass media, increased access to the internet and high levels of mobile phone use are changing the ways that poor people seek health-related information and advice. In order to pick up new patterns of behaviour with the potential to spread rapidly, we will study health information seeking behaviour in one relatively remote rural area, one rural area with good transport links to Dhaka and one slum in Dhaka.
We will use a questionnaire survey, focus group discussions and in-depth interviews to explore how men and women use mobile phones and how and where they find information and advice for different kinds of health problems. We will look for early adapters of new ways of using mobile phones and the internet. We will also organise interviews with key decision-makers in the health and telecommunications sectors to discuss their views of the regulatory challenges associated with a technology that enables suppliers of pharmaceuticals and specialised services to communicate directly with potential consumers.The findings will be relevant to ongoing debates about how to increase access to reliable and trustworthy health information and advice.
National stakeholders in Bangladesh: Early in the project the research team will identify key stakeholders, who will probably include policy makers concerned with health and with government strategies to encourage the spread of ICTs, the professional regulatory agencies, heads of health departments of large national NGOs, donor agencies, and private (for profit and not-for-profit) organisations providing ICT-based health information and advice services. We will organise a workshop to review the study objectives and agree a process for providing access of all stakeholders to the study findings. We will produce a policy influence strategy based on the conclusions of the workshop. We anticipate that it will include publicising study findings on the ICDDR,B website and presenting them to the annual ICDDR,B conference on health and health systems, producing one or more policy briefs and presenting findings to a learning platform that the Future Health Systems Consortium is establishing to bring together policy-makers, researchers, and health system innovators in Bangladesh and West Bengal, in India to facilitate learning from experiences with innovative approaches to health system development. International stakeholders in ICTs and health: We will formulate our strategy for reaching international stakeholders in close collaboration with the Future Health Systems Consortium, the STEPS Centre and the many development information networks based at the IDS. This will enable us to disseminate our findings through websites aimed at different policy networks. We will build on existing cooperation with the Development Section of the Guardian online. We will also use discussion forums such as Eldis Communities as knowledge intermediaries for the research. We will link to international initiatives, such those on e- and m-health of the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Health Organisation. We will build on strong links between members of the research team and the Bangkok Office of the Rockefeller Foundation to ensure that study findings are disseminated to their programme partners. We will establish links with the ongoing research programme supported by the Global Alliance for Health Systems and Policy Research at the WHO. We will disseminate findings through the website of the Future Health Systems Consortium and through the website of the Centre for Health Market Innovations, organised by Results for Development, a Washington-based NGO. The PI is on the advisory group of that Center. We also intend to target potentially important global players such as the large mobile telephone companies and large internet based knowledge intermediaries, in our international policy influence and research uptake strategy. Academic Community: Our strategy for reaching the academic research community will take advantage of links that the research team have with the Future Health Systems Consortium and the STEPS Centre so we can disseminate our findings through websites aimed at specific academic communities. We will work with these partners to organise panels at conferences such as the biennial conferences of the International Health Economics Association and the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research and the annual meeting of the Development Studies Association. We will produce at least six scientific papers for journals such as Health Policy and Planning, Social Science and Medicine and World Development. We will submit at least one summary article to The Lancet or the British Medical Journal to reach the broader health systems research community. We will aim to bring together some of these papers in an edited volume at the end of the project. The working papers and edited volume will be of particular interest to other researchers in the field, but will also be made available to practitioners and decision-makers. The ultimate beneficiaries will be to poor households in terms of access and a better enabling/regulatory environment.