The Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium (ITM) has a long record of research on health service organisation, health sector reform and health care financing in a variety of countries, including in the countries of study. It organises an international Master in Public Health (MPH) focusing on health care systems management and health policy. Participants are mainly health managers and policy makers from Africa, Asia and Latin America. ITM has identified a strong multidisciplinary research team for this project.

Two units of the department of Public Health are involved in this research:

1. Quality and Human Resources Unit (Q&HR), which will be leading the work package on local health systems

The Q&HR Unit aims at contributing to better health care services and systems in LMIC through research, education and services. Q&HR research focuses on the management of health care organisations (HCO), by which we understand any organisation responsible for organisation or provision of health care and services. Currently, research themes include: organisation of the management of chronic diseases, strengthening policies for effective local health systems, health workforce and health service management, safe motherhood and reproductive health policy.

Vincent De Brouwere is a Public Health medical doctor, reader at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp (ITM-A), and, from October 07 to September 10, Director of Research based at IRD-INAS, Rabat, Morocco. He has a field experience of 15 years in Developing Countries (7 years in ex-Zaire; then 5 + 3 years in Morocco). His main field of research interest is the health care system, with a particular focus on maternal health and the quality of care, including the management of human resources required for the good functioning of health systems. His role in FEMHealth will be to lead the WP3 and to participate in the overall WP3 development and implementation. He will be a link person for the Moroccan team.

Fabienne Richard is registered midwife who specialised in tropical medicine and public health (MSc). She has 10 years experience as clinical midwife and a field experience of 5 years in developing countries (Kenya, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso). Her field of research is maternal health, access to health care and quality of care. She recently coordinated the writing of a monograph on financial barriers to obstetric care (see www.itg.be/shsop). She is currently doing a PhD on access to quality C-section in Africa. She will be involved in the implementation of the WP3 (leading the rapid assessment and POEM development, and contributing to the realist studies) and will be a link person for the Malian team.

Bruno Marchal is a medical doctor who specialised in public health (MD, MPH).

He managed a district hospital in Kenya for 4 years and has done research in healthcare management in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. He is currently doing a PhD study on strategic management and performance of hospitals in Africa, in which he applies realist evaluation as a methodology to deal with complexity. He would lead the development of the WP3 realist case study development and the comparative analysis of the realist evaluation results.

Sara Van Belle is a political scientist and an anthropologist. She worked for2 years as Programme Manager for Africa and Latin America at Marie Stopes International HQ, London and was Programme Monitoring & Evaluation Officer at UNFPA's sub-regional Country Support Team in Senegal for 2 years. She has field experience in francophone West Africa, as well as Sierra Leone and Ghana. She joined the Q&HR Unit at the ITM in 2008 and is currently engaged in a PhD at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that focuses on global non-state actor involvement in district decision-making processes in sexual and reproductive health. She will be involved in the WP3 realist case study development and the comparative analysis of the realist evaluation results with a specific focus on the linkages between policy and implementation.

2. Health Policy and Financing Unit, which will be leading the Community of Practice

The research, teaching and service provision of the unit are aimed at the development, in a complex globalising world, of high-quality, pluralistic and accessible health care systems. The area of activity of the unit encompasses the broad field of health systems in developing countries, with special emphasis on health policy at national and international level on the one hand, and financing of health care on the other.

Dr Bruno Meessen is a health economist, who has a great deal of practical experience with the design of health sector reforms and their analysis. He frequently provides expertise to governments and international agencies through consultancies, expert meetings or policy technical notes. He was the coordinator of a recent review of user fee removal reforms in sub-Saharan Africa for UNICEF. His research portfolio focuses on new institutional economic analysis applied to public health sector in low-income countries, access to health care, health care financing schemes and performance-based financing.