For healthcare professionals only

Observations Border Crossing

Brave new world

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 04 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4537
  1. Tessa Richards, assistant editor, BMJ
  1. trichards{at}

    Social innovations hold the potential to deliver cost effective and equitable health care to poor and marginalised people

    How can healthcare systems get more health for their money? In these straitened times this question is concentrating minds in rich and poor countries alike. Much of the debate is focusing on how to cut waste and inefficiency and increase the quality of services. But there is also a call for new thinking.

    The World Health Organization recently launched an initiative to encourage the development of innovative, low cost technologies to tackle entrenched global health problems. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in public-private partnerships to do the same. A further idea that is exciting attention is the potential of social innovations to improve health.

    The concept of social innovation to improve health is not the easiest to pin down. In pursuit of a definition I approached Charles Gardner, who heads the innovation arm of the independent, Geneva based Global Forum for Health Research ( He was happy to explain.

    “When people talk about innovation in health systems,” he said, “it conjures up an image …

    View Full Text

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription