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Engineering Design Centre


Systems for health equity

The International Health Systems group is an interdisciplinary team comprised of academic engineers and clinicians. We research the improvement of healthcare, through systems thinking, with partners across the world. We believe in a model of participatory action research, based on equitable relationships. Our approach is based on:

  • mixed methods approaches to understand how systems function and where they can be improved;
  • frugal innovation in systems, processes, and technology;
  • using systems understanding to drive changes in clinical care, heath services, and policy.

Systems engineering and design offer powerful perspectives for understanding the complexity of healthcare, particularly for teams working across a cultural and linguistic boundary.  We believe in combining rigorous qualitative approaches with advanced data analytics to inform these perspectives, in collaboration with researchers, clinicians, managers, and policy makers.

We work with a large range of local and global partners, including the World Health Organisation's Health Workforce and Trauma Operational and Advisory Teams, Cambridge Global Health Partnerships, the Uganda UK Health Alliance, the Primary Trauma Care Foundation, the Tropical Health and Education Trust, Cambridge Public Health interdisciplinary research centre, and the Cambridge Precision Health Initiative.



Group Members


Group Funding

The International Health Systems Group has received funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) through both the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre and UK international development funding from the UK Government to support global health research. We have also been generously supported by funding from the Wellcome Trust, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust (ACT), the Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA Research Fund, and Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE). 


Group Partnerships

Trauma systems collaboration with the WHO Trauma Operational and Advisory Team

This formal collaboration with the WHO Trauma Operational and Advisory Team (TOpAT), based in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, provides WHO with expertise in health system design applied to trauma care in resource-poor environments. 

Health systems in conflict collaboration with the WHO Health Workforce Department

This formal collaboration with the WHO Health Workforce Department, based in the WHO Head office in Geneva, is exploring the health systems effects of attacks against healthcare workers in the Middle East and North Africa. 

NIHR Global Health Research Group on Acquired Brain and Spine Injury (ABSI)

This multidisciplinary global research group is funded by the NIHR to explore the issues of injuries to the brain and spine through 16 projects, spread across 4 themes, in over 24 countries. Our ABSI research is based in Uganda, exploring the interlinked issues of needs, access and quality of care.

Associated Projects

Follow Up Technology Usability and Readiness Evaluation (FUTURE)

This project, developed from the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Acquired Brain and Spine Injury, utilises SMS messaging technology to provide low-bandwidth long-term follow up for patients in resource-poor environments with limited access to healthcare facilities. 

Global Outcomes After Laparotomy for Trauma (GOAL TRAUMA)

This is a global study exploring the provision of trauma laparotomy, an operation which requires a surgeon to open the abdomen to repair traumatic injury. It will look at the people being treated globally, what kinds of care they receive, who looks after them, and their outcomes.

Federated Health Data Networks

This project is exploring how data generated by healthcare processes in resource-poor health systems can be made available for analysis  by both clinicians, algorithms, researchers, and policymakers. It integrates work done as part both the FUTURE study and the EyeVu consortium.

The EyeVu consortium

This multidisciplinary group combing medical and engineering students with established academics looks at how medical retinal image generation can be linked to machine learning approaches to healthcare, using the example of retinal images to diagnose papilloedema in traumatic brain injury. 

Attacks against healthcare workers in conflict

This work seeks to explore the systemic effects of attacks against healthcare staff and infrastructure during armed conflict, through the perspectives of both patients and healthcare providers. This explores not only the conflict setting, but includes neighbouring countries and health systems.

Community reactions in severe illness (CRISIS)

This project contributes to the work of the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Acquired Brain and Spine Injury and explores how patients in resource-poor health systems with a brain injury or severe illness access formal and informal health systems, and how they move through them to find appropriate care.


The IHSG is pleased to accept applications from potential graduate and undergraduate students in both medicine and engineering, as well as collaborators and contributors from around the world.