New network: Social innovations for better health

27 January 2022

Man writing different symbols on a glas plate

Social Innovation in Health Initiative (SIHI) Sweden is a network for forging contacts between researchers, entrepreneurs and organisations working with social innovation in health.

Promoting social innovation for better health in Sweden – that is the aim of the new SIHI Sweden network. Although this is not the sole purpose of the network; “we will also try to bring people and stakeholders together, spread good ideas and join together with others to create knowledge about various issues,” says Mats Målqvist, Professor at the Department of Women's and Children's Health.

Mats Målqvist, Professor at the Department of
Women's and Children's Health.
Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

SIHI is a global organisation created by the WHO and Sida, and is now being established in Sweden. Its aim is to create a network to facilitate intellectual exchange and create contacts between researchers, entrepreneurs and organisations who work with social innovation in health.

“So far, the focus has been on low and middle income countries, however SIHI Sweden will work towards social health innovations in Sweden,  but exchanges between the Global North and the Global South will not be forgotten,” Mats Målqvist continues.

He has recently become the director of SWEDESD, the Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development, which will be home to the new network. KI Innovations and the MAD Foundation will also be stakeholders.

Increasing exchange with the South

As soon as the Swedish network has been established, Mats Målqvist will work towards increasing exchanges with countries in the South. Traditionally, global health (or “international health” as it was once called) has had a strong focus on training doctors and midwives in Sweden who then go to work in African countries. However, things are different now. Mats Målqvist explains,

 “I believe that an important part of SIHI’s mission in Sweden is to work to change how global health is viewed. This is something we do together – we don’t just study how things work in Africa and Asia. Global health is not ‘public health somewhere else’. It involves societal structures, common societal problems and how we can work together to find solutions.”

Support from mother to mother

The network’s website will be launched on 11 February and will publish information about the ongoing projects. One example of social innovation can be found in Malmö. A project involving the women’s collective ‘Yalla Trappan’ has been ongoing for some time, and works with work integration in the disadvantaged Rosengård neighbourhood.

“In this project, we use the Philani Model to provide support from mother to mother. This method was developed in Cape Town and we are trying to contextualise in Sweden. This is social innovation, a new way of working, which we are trying to apply in a Swedish context,” says Mats Målqvist.

Many societal challenges

There are more examples of useful innovations in healthcare that have been imported from other countries. For example, the Columbian ‘kangaroo method’ used with premature babies is used in Sweden. Another example is the rehydration solution of salt, sugar, and water that was developed in Bangladesh and is now widely used within healthcare.

Why do we need such a network?
“We need new ways of doing things. Just look at the crisis in labour units around Sweden that was a debated topic during the autumn. How can we work in new ways there? Climate change – how does that affect our health? We talk about integration a lot, which is also very much a case of social and emotional health. There are so many societal challenges and new  and innovative methods are needed.”

Global network for social innovations within health

  • The Social Innovation in Health Initiative (SIHI) is a global network for promoting social innovation and health.
  • SIHI Sweden is a newly established network that aims to promote transdisciplinary research on social innovations for health. The network will do this by bringing together researchers, students, entrepreneurs, decision-makers and other stakeholders from the private and public sectors, civil society and non-profit organisations.
  • SWEDESD at Uppsala University will host SIHI Sweden.

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Last modified: 2022-12-22