caption Credit: UN Women/ Gaganjit Singh (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Social Science Approaches for Research and Engagement in Health Policy and Systems (SHAPES)

The Social Science Approaches for Research and Engagement in Health Policy and Systems (SHAPES) Thematic Working Group (TWG) convenes activities and discussions to strengthen and raise the profile of social science approaches for research and engagement within the wider field of health policy and systems research (HPSR).

SHAPES was founded in 2011 when four networks (social science approaches, policy analysis, participatory action research, and realist evaluation) united under one TWG. The group brings together a diverse community of academics, policymakers and practitioners to discuss, debate and share experience and resources relating to the application of social science approaches in HPSR. Key concerns of the SHAPES community are ‘whose definitions count?’, ‘who makes the rules?’, and ‘who benefits from these systems and policies?’. We promote research and advocacy methods that are sensitive to context, amplify voices on the margins, and generate knowledge for real-world change in health and policy and systems.

Activities

SHAPES has an active Google Group where members circulate resources and engage in dialogue on social science issues in HPSR. Regular activities include:

Topic clusters within SHAPES:
  • Complexity science and systems thinking – Ligia Paina and Jeff Glenn.
  • Power – Veena Sriram, Walter Flores, Marta Schaaf, Stephanie Topp and Kerry Scott.
  • LGBTQI – Simon Lewin, Benjamin Hanckel and Aruna Chakravatry.
  • History – Jill Olivier and Erica Nelson.
  • Working across disciplines – Jill Olivier.
  • Policy analysis – Lucy Gilson and Johanna Hanefeld.
  • Participatory action research – Kingsley Chikaphupha and Rene Loewenson.

Objectives

  • Strengthen and raise the profile of social science approaches within the wider field of HPSR.
  • Build relationships between practitioners, academics and policymakers to strengthen the production and utilization of knowledge for health systems strengthening.
  • Stimulate learning, innovation and capacity building, in particular for under-resourced researchers.
News and views

News and views

Access the latest blog posts and news items from the SHAPES TWG.

Read more

Facilitators

Jill Olivier

Jill Olivier

Co-Chair

Ateeb Ahmad Parray

Ateeb Ahmad Parray

Co-Chair

Apurva Kumar Pandya

Apurva Kumar Pandya

Coordinator

Jill Olivier

Jill Olivier

Co-Chair

Dr Jill Olivier is an Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, in the Health Policy and Systems Division. There, half her time is spent teaching Health Policy and Systems, convening the Health Systems Track of the MPH program, and supervising masters and PHD students. The other half of her time is spent coordinating and conducting research. She has been the PI of several multi-country studies, and has research experience across Africa, as well as in the Asia-Pacific and Americas. She is currently the Chair of the Public Health Association of South Africa’s Special Interest Group in Health Systems, and an active member of Health Systems Global. Jill has a disciplinary background in the Social Sciences and Humanities (in particular Development Studies, History and Interdisciplinary Studies), and applies these within HPSR, particularly in areas of ‘intersection’ (integrating non-state providers, community systems, intersectorality and interdisciplinarity), research integrity, history, communication and culture. Her active grants focus on health systems responsiveness, resilience and migration.

Ateeb Ahmad Parray

Ateeb Ahmad Parray

Co-Chair

Ateeb Ahmad Parray is a global health researcher based in Bangladesh at BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University. He works in the areas of gender, sexual and reproductive health, humanitarian emergencies, intersectionality, health systems and health policy with a special focus on vulnerable and marginalized populations including urban informal settlement dwellers and displaced populations. Ateeb serves as the Country Director (Bangladesh) of the STAR Scholars network which envisions to advance global social mobility by using research and advocacy. He is also an active member of the Gender and COVID-19 initiative, where he co-leads the 'intersectionality' and 'humanitarian emergencies' sub-groups respectively. Ateeb holds a Masters degree in Social Sciences from the University of Dhaka and a Masters degree in Public Health from BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University.

Apurva Kumar Pandya

Apurva Kumar Pandya

Coordinator

Apurva-kumar is a Health Psychologist and currently working as an Economic Health Specialist at Regional Resource Centre for Health Technology Assessment, Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar (IIPH-G), Gujarat, India. He has worked in the domain of HIV prevention, counselling, health behavior change, cost-effectiveness analysis, and worked with children, adolescents and LGBTH (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Hijra) population. He is also an active member of Gender and COVID-19 initiative. His interests include broadly attempting to answer how individual behaviors are shaped by psychological, sociocultural, and political contexts; and how technology, gender and complex socio-cultural structures influences healthy or unhealthy behaviours, and uptake of proposed or implemented policies and healthcare services. He holds masters in Clinical Psychology and doctorate in Human Development and Family Studies from The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat.

Publications and resources

Reclaiming comprehensive public health

R. Loewenson, K. Accoe, N. Bajpai, et al.

In this piece, the authors highlight deficiencies and harms of a dominant biosecurity, authoritarian framing of public health. They argue for a comprehensive, participatory, inclusive public health approach that integrates rights, social dimensions and diverse sources of knowledge, evidence and innovation and that maintains equity as a critical goal.

An open letter from Trisha Greenhalgh et al. to the editors of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) triggered wide debate by health policy and systems researchers globally on the inadequate recognition of the value of qualitative research and the resulting deficit in publishing papers reporting on qualitative research. This is a follow-up open letter/commentary, with 170 co-signatories.

In order to facilitate greater engagement with the concept of power among researchers and practitioners in the health systems and policy realm, the authors share a broad overview of the concept of power, and list ten excellent resources on power in health policy and systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), covering exemplary frameworks, commentaries and empirical work. They undertook a two-stage process to identify these resources.

From 2013, the Zambian Corrections Service (ZCS) worked with partners to strengthen prison health systems and services. One component of that work led to the establishment of facility-based Prison Health Committees (PrHCs) comprising of both inmates and officers. The authors present findings from a nested evaluation of the impact of eight PrHCs 18 months after program initiation.

This paper describes an exploratory study in Rayagada District of Odisha which aimed to understand tribal women’s experiences with pregnancy and childbirth and their interactions with the formal health system. Methods included in-depth interviews with women, traditional healers and formal health care providers and outreach workers, and observations in the community and health facilities.

Gendered Norms of Responsibility: Reflections on Accountability Politics in Maternal Health Care in Malawi

Elsbet Lodenstein, K. Pedersen, K. Botha, J.E.W. Broerse and M. Dieleman

This paper aims to provide insights into the role of traditional authorities in two maternal health programs in Northern Malawi. The study uses a framework of gendered institutions to critically assess the by-law content, process and effects and to understand how responsibilities and accountabilities are constructed, negotiated and reversed.