The Department of Research of the Ministry of Health (DR-MOH) and the National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) are in partnership for the management of a small grant scheme to support research proposals in health systems operations research as one of the identified national research priority areas in Malawi.
This scheme has been instituted as part of the implementation efforts of the Health Research Policy of December 2019. The Policy calls for the promotion and strengthening of health research governance structures at national and sub-national levels. Strengthened structures, such as district health offices and health facilities, are pivotal for the conduct of quality health research in Malawi in order to generate evidence required to effectively inform the development of health and related policies and interventions. The effective implementation of such evidence-informed policies and interventions would ultimately result in improved health systems performance and peoples’ health and general well-being. This grant scheme has been established with funding from Malawi Government.


Health systems in low income countries face the challenges of substantial socioeconomic and health inequalities, rapid globalisation and evolving disease burdens. Malawi being one of the low income countries is not spared from such challenges. District health offices and health facilities (be they central or district hospitals), are faced with health systems operational challenges that necessitate the conduct of health systems operations research at either health facility or district health office level. Such research would generate evidence base that is required to strengthen health systems and improve the delivery of healthcare in Malawi. The research findings would inform the delivery of evidence-based interventions or structural changes that are of direct relevance to decision makers, district hospital management teams as well as health facility management teams in Malawi.

Health systems research addresses questions that are not disease-specific but concern issues that have implication on the performance of the health system as a whole. It is recognised that health systems are complex, and include not only formal health care delivery systems (public or private), but also include factors and elements such as governance, financing, health workforce, information systems, health education, community and individual action, the regulatory and legislative context and the existing and emerging social, economic and cultural circumstances. As such, the research questions under health systems research are generally situated within an understanding of these broader health system linkages and descriptions on how and why findings from such research have the potential to improve the health of the people.


Teams of members of staff at DHO or health facility level (be it at central or district hospital level) will prepare research proposals addressing an identified health systems related problem that is relevant to their scope of work at DHO or health facility level. The scheme will, therefore, fund demand-led, health systems operations research that addresses issue(s) of relevance that is specific to the research team’s institution

It is expected that outcome(s) of the projects will inform and improve the delivery of evidence-based interventions or structural changes/practices that are of direct relevance and application to district health management teams, health facility management teams and policy makers.


The Call for Research Proposals in Health Systems Operations Research at District Health Office Level or at Heath Facility Level is premised on small grant scheme. Therefore, the budget limit for project activities in a proposal will  not exceed K1,500,000. Research projects may include the following permissible budget items;
• Material costs, if they are directly linked to the research project (e.g, reagents/supplies), field expenses and other data collection costs that may be justified dependent on the nature of the research study.
• Direct costs incurred through the use of research infrastructure linked to the research.
• Cost of dissemination of the results connection with the funded research.

Note: Applicant’s salary top-up is not an eligible cost


(a) Each proposal must have at least one principal investigator as a main applicant based at DHO or at a public health facility. The Principal Investigator will bear the overall responsibility for the project, including its technical and administrative co-ordination as well as the timely delivery of scientific and financial reports.

(b) Each proposal should demonstrate that there is a research team that is led by a principal investigator. The size of the research team should be commensurate with the scope of the envisaged project activities with roles of each member of the team clearly described. The team should be composed of relevant staff from the DHO or public health facility. Where it is necessary and justified, the team may also include any relevant staff from a private health facility who would participate as a collaborator but such a collaborator should be from within the catchment area of the DHO/health facility of the principal investigator. Members of DHO research co-ordinating committees or health facility research co-ordinating committees are encouraged to take advantage of this small grant opportunity to apply.

(c) Support letters from the principal investigator’s DHO or head of a public health facility are a prerequisite. Such letters should signify DHO/health facility support and approval. Proposals without such approval will not be considered.

(d) The Grant will fund only health systems operations research that addresses an identified health systems problem of relevance to the DHO/health facility.

(e) Principal Investigator(s) at the point of application must fulfil the following requirements:
• Hold a primary appointment within DHO or at a public health facility (minimum of six months employment) and is still in employment at DHO or public health facility level;
• Be an individual that can command trust of his team members. Those with a track record of leadership ability in co-ordinating research related programmes may have an added advantage but it is not a must.
• Must be a holder of at least a master’s degree in any relevant field. Those holding an MBBS degree are also eligible to be PI.

Application guidelines are available on for eligibility and other application requirements.

(a) The full proposals should be submitted electronically to both and with a copy to both and under subject heading: “Application for a Health Systems Operations Research Small Grant” clearly specified.
(b) All proposals must be submitted in the prescribed template and will be reviewed based on their quality and merit. A full proposal template is downloadable on
(c) All documents (full research proposal, detailed CV and letters of support) have to be submitted in both PDF and MS Word files, while detailed budget should be in excel. Proposals should not exceed twelve pages (12), using 1.5 spacing and font size 12 Times New Roman (Refer to the proposal template for other details).
(d) Applicants will be required to submit full proposals which will be screened for completeness by NCST and DR-MOH before a rigorous confidential review by an independent panel of experts.
(e) Communication of the proposal review outcome to applicants will be made by 21st August, 2020.
(f) Decisions of the scheme managers will be final.

Monday, 7 August 2020 at 16:30 Malawi time.

Any enquiries from prospective applicants should be directed to either of the following;

• Dr. C. Mitambo (; cell number:0999397913);
• Mr. Mike Kachedwa ( ; cell number 0999360516.