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Health Systems Global (HSG)

Improving health systems

What are health systems?


According to the World Health Organization, a health system is the people, institutions and resources, arranged together in accordance with established policies, to improve the health of a population.

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Offering value beyond health

Health systems are part of the social fabric of any country, offering value beyond health. Their wider goals include:

  • Equity, or fairness, in the distribution of health and the costs of financing the health system
  • Protection for households from the catastrophic costs associated with illness
  • Responsiveness to expectations of the population
  • Promotion of respect for dignity.

These systems operate at various levels, focusing on both local and national health structures. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that health systems are frequently shaped by wider international contexts.

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A globally connected outlook

The vision of Health Systems Global is that globally connected health systems research and policy communities contribute to the attainment of better health, equity and wellbeing – in other words, that these communities contribute to the improvement of health systems.

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Aligning with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  • Improving health systems and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires a holistic and integrated approach to tackling poverty, inequity, health and other challenges, as part of a broad development agenda
  • The SDGs remind us of the complexity of human health and the systems that support it
  • Attaining the SDGs requires practitioners, policymakers, researchers, citizens, and other actors to learn together about how to re-think, re-design and strengthen health systems to improve the health and health care of all people.
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Understanding health policy and systems research (HSPR)

HSPR seeks to understand and improve how societies organize themselves in achieving collective health goals, and how different actors interact in the policy and implementation processes to contribute to policy outcomes.

The Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research defines HPSR as interdisciplinary – a blend of economics, sociology, anthropology, political science, public health and epidemiology that together draw a comprehensive picture of how health systems respond and adapt to health policies, and how health policies can shape, and be shaped by, health systems and the broader determinants of health.

The challenges we face

  • As global advances are threatened by climate change, faltering aid commitments, and the tightening of borders, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remind us that human progress relies on action from all sectors, including health. Health systems need to look beyond the provision of care to address challenges such as emerging infections, ageing populations, and the mass movement of people
  • A big challenge in reaching health goals is that many countries have weak health systems, making it hard to improve the health of all their people, especially those who are most disadvantaged
  • Even though the world has become wealthier, poorer people are still at higher risk of health problems, like chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. Less prosperous communities struggle to get healthcare and might become even poorer while trying to get better. Inequality makes it tough for poorer communities to lead healthy lives, whether they are in wealthier countries or in poorer and more fragile areas
  • Because people are realizing how crucial strong health systems are, there is now more interest in studying health policy and systems, even though many are not fully aware of how these systems work.
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Take action and join us

In 2010, researchers, policymakers and practitioners acknowledged the need for more health policy research.

Health Systems Global (HSG) was founded to advance this agenda, fostering collaborationa and promoting health systems research and knowledge exchange. Become a member today and join us in creating change.

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