Do international health partnerships contribute to reverse innovation? A mixed methods study of THET-supported partnerships in the UK

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Title: Do international health partnerships contribute to reverse innovation? A mixed methods study of THET-supported partnerships in the UK
Author(s): Kulasabanathan, K
Issa, H
Bhatti, Y
Prime, M
Del Castillo, J
Darzi, A
Harris, M
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: Background International health partnerships (IHPs) are changing, with an increased emphasis on mutual accountability and joint agenda setting for both the high- and the low- or middle-income country (LMIC) partners. There is now an important focus on the bi-directionality of learning however for the UK partners, this typically focuses on learning at the individual level, through personal and professional development. We sought to evaluate whether this learning also takes the shape of ‘Reverse Innovation’ –when an idea conceived in a low-income country is subsequently adopted in a higher-income country. Methods This mixed methods study used an initial scoping survey of all the UK-leads of the Tropical Health Education Trust (THET)-supported International Health Partnerships (n = 114) to ascertain the extent to which the IHPs are or have been vehicles for Reverse Innovation. The survey formed the sampling frame for further deep-dive interviews to focus on volunteers’ experiences and attitudes to learning from LMICs. Interviews of IHP leads (n = 12) were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Survey data was analysed descriptively. Interview transcripts were coded thematically, using an inductive approach. Results Survey response rate was 27% (n = 34). The majority (70%) strongly agreed that supporting LMIC partners best described the mission of the partnership but only 13% of respondents strongly agreed that learning about new innovations and models was a primary mission of their partnership. Although more than half of respondents reported having observed innovative practice in the LMIC, only one IHP respondent indicated that this has led to Reverse Innovation. Interviews with a sample of survey respondents revealed themes primarily around how learning is conceptualised, but also a central power imbalance between the UK and LMIC partners. Paternalistic notions of knowledge could be traced to partnership power dynamics and latent attitudes to LMICs. Conclusions Given the global flow of innovation, if High-income countries (HICs) are to benefit from LMIC practices, it is paramount to keep an open mind about where such learning can come from. Making the potential for learning more explicit and facilitating innovation dissemination upon return will ultimately underpin the success of adoption.
Publication Date: 18-Apr-2017
Date of Acceptance: 31-Mar-2017
ISSN: 1744-8603
Publisher: BioMed Central
Journal / Book Title: Globalization and Health
Volume: 13
Copyright Statement: © The Author(s). 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Keywords: Science & Technology
Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
Reverse innovation
International health partnership
Global health
Global health
International health partnership
Reverse innovation
General & Internal Medicine
1117 Public Health And Health Services
Publication Status: Published
Article Number: 25
Appears in Collections:Division of Surgery
Faculty of Medicine
Epidemiology, Public Health and Primary Care

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