The state of digital interventions for demand generation in low- and middle-income countries: Considerations, emerging approaches, and research gaps

Dustin G. Gibson, Tigest Tamrat, Garrett Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The recent introduction of digital health into generating demand for health commodities and services has provided practitioners with an expanded universe of potential tools to strengthen demand and ensure service delivery receipt. However, considerable gaps remain in our understanding of which interventions are effective, which characteristics mediate their benefit for different target populations and health domains, and what is necessary to ensure effective deployment. This paper first provides an overview of the types of digital health interventions for demand generation, including untargeted client communication, client-to-client communication, on-demand information services, personal health tracking, client financial transactions, and targeted client communication. It then provides a general overview of 118 studies published between January 1, 2010, and October 3, 2017, that used digital interventions to generate demand for health interventions. The majority (61%) of these studies used targeted client communication to provide health education or reminders to improve treatment adherence, and the most frequently (27%) studied health condition was HIV/AIDS. Intervention characteristics that have been found to have some effect on gains in demand generation include modality, directionality, tailoring, phrasing, and schedule. The paper also explores new emergent digital approaches that expand the potential effect of traditional demand generation in terms of personalization of content and services, continuity of care, and accountability tracking. Applying existing frameworks for monitoring and evaluation and reporting, research on emerging approaches will need to consider not only their feasibility but also their effectiveness in achieving demand generation outcomes. We propose a research agenda to help guide the field of digital demand generation studies and programs within a broader health systems strengthening agenda, including establishing and documenting the influence of intervention characteristics within different populations and health domains and examining the long-term effects and cost-effectiveness of digital demand generation interventions, as well as equity in access to such interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S49-S60
JournalGlobal Health Science and Practice
StatePublished - Oct 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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