COSYST-MNCH is a partnership of RCSI (lead), DCU, College of Medicine(CoM), University of Malawi and Concern Worldwide Ireland and Malawi. It is funded through Irish Aid/HEA.
The goal of the project is to achieve a better understanding of community systems factors underpinning maternal, newborn and child health services in Malawi, focusing on the health dimensions of the first 1000 days of life. COSYST-MNCH has two components. The first, is research case studies of districts and community settings where partners are already implementing projects and programmes in Malawi in order to understand how community systems impact on MNCH service utilisation. The second component involves building capacity for community health systems research in the form of a blended learning Masters Programme (accredited through RCSI).

Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL)

In March 2014 the Masters in Community Systems Health Research was launched in Malawi. A brief taste of the launch is provided in this short video Since then four modules have been delivered. The last two of the taught modules commenced with a face-to-face week in Blantyre 19-23rd February 2015. The remaining 4 students (5 originally started) are from Concern Universal Malawi, Concern Worldwide Malawi and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development. DCU provides the technology enhanced learning skills of the translation of the module content to suit the blended learning teaching of the modules. RCSI provides most of the content, coordination and delivery of the teaching material, but with support from DCU and University of Malawi academic staff. A TEL seminar was held for College of Medicine staff in March 2014. The workshop was facilitated by Lisa Donaldson, DCU and Joel Kumwenda, CoM.16 CoM staff members attended.

An RCSI inter-departmental meeting was held in April 2014 to present and discuss lessons learned and consider their relevance to TEL plans within RCSI. Based on this and circulation of the presentations and discussions in this meeting pedagogical, institutional, and technological experiences of delivering the MSc to date have been documented here.

Health Systems Research
A community systems analytical framework has been developed from a literature review, consultation with stakeholders and presentation at conferences. A contextual analysis for Malawi MNCH has been finalised. Data for the research case studies have been collected from two districts in Malawi by the University of Malawi research team with the support of Concern Worldwide, Malawi, RCSI and DCU. Work on the analysis has not commenced. Students will do their research for their Masters in these districts on community health systems.

Dissemination of Findings


  • Presentation of the COSYST framework at the Global Symposium for Health Systems Research in Cape Town, September 2014 by Elaine Byrne RCSI
  • Presentation at the Irish Forum for Global Health (IFGH) International Conference, Partnerships for Health, on lessons learned from COSYST in terms of the partnership by Aisling Walsh, RCSI


  • Presentation ‘The collaborative and pragmatic development of blended learning MSc in Malawi’ to Edtech conference, Dublin, May 2014 by Lisa Donaldson, DCU
  • Presentation: ‘A surfing safari from Ireland to Africa’ presented at the UK Association for Learning Technology conference, Sept 2014, by Lisa Donaldson, DCU
  • Presentation at the IFGH conference, on lessons learned from the development of the COSYST MSc by Anne Matthews, DCU
  • Donaldson, L, Matthews, A. Walsh, A., Manda-Taylor, L. and Byrne, E. (submitted Feb 2015) The collaborative and pragmatic development of a blended learning M.Sc. in Community Systems Health Research in Malawi, TEL Ireland Journal


  • All Africa, Malawi News agency , 1 September 2014, on Malawi: health sciences on child health improvemen.

Team Members Include

  • RCSI: Prof Ruairi Brugha (PI), Dr Elaine Byrne (CO-PI & Director of MSc), Aisling Walsh (coordinator) and Fiona Wright (admin support). Teaching support also from Dr Regien Biesma, Dr Patrick Dicker, Prof Ronan Conroy and Dr Fiona Boland.
  • DCU: Prof Anne Matthews (PI), Lisa Donaldson, Pamela Hussey
  • College of Medicine, University of Malawi: Prof Victor Mwapasa (PI), Dr Lucinda Manda-Taylor(coordinator), Tamara Phyriee (research assistant), Daniel Mwale(research assistant). Teaching support also from Dr Jimmy Gama.
  • Concern Worldwide: Gwyneth Cotes (Malawi); Ros Tamming (Ireland)
Categories Health

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