Applying learning health systems thinking in codeveloping integrated tuberculosis interventions in the contexts of COVID-19

André Janse van Rensburg, Inge Petersen, Ajibola Awotiwon, Max Oscar Bachmann, Robyn Curran, Jamie Murdoch, Christy Joy Ras, Lara Fairall

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The COVID-19 pandemic reversed much of global progress made in combatting tuberculosis, with South Africa experiencing one of the largest impacts on tuberculosis detection. The aim of this paper is to share our experiences in applying learning health systems (LHS) thinking to the codevelopment of an intervention improving an integrated response to COVID-19 and tuberculosis in a South African district. A sequential partially mixed-methods study was undertaken between 2018 and 2021 in the district of Amajuba in KwaZulu-Natal. Here, we report on the formulation of a Theory of Change, codesigning and refining proposed interventions, and piloting and evaluating codesigned interventions in primary healthcare facilities, through an LHS lens. Following the establishment and formalisation of a district Learning Community, diagnostic work and a codevelopment of a theory of change, intervention packages tailored according to pandemic lockdowns were developed, piloted and scaled up. This process illustrates how a community of learning can generate more responsive, localised interventions, and suggests that the establishment of a shared space of research governance can provide a degree of resilience to facilitate adaption to external shocks. Four main lessons have been gleaned from our experience in adopting an LHS approach in a South African district, which are (1) the importance of building and sustaining relationships, (2) the utility of colearning, coproduction and adaptive capacity, (3) the centrality of theory-driven systems strengthening and (4) reflections on LHS as a framework.
Original languageEnglish
Article number009567
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022


  • COVID-19
  • health services research
  • health systems
  • screening
  • tuberculosis

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