By Egbert Sondorp
On 2ndSeptember 2015, the Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Health Systems in Fragile and Conflict Affected States organised an expert workshop in London at the Wellcome Trust building.
The event was an opportunity for the TWG’s Steering Committee, its Advisory Group, and a number of invited experts to brainstorm around a number of issues related to the current and future scope of activities of the TWG.
Firstly, we presented the latest results of the ongoing study on priority health system research questions in fragile and conflict affected environments as well as the particular challenges of performing and disseminating research in these areas. In smaller groups, participants brainstormed about concrete research questions to complement broader research themes that we had identified earlier in our study. Research questions range from how to sequence health system strengthening efforts in a post-conflict environment, to identification of linkages with wider state-building, to the best way to promote the voice of citizens, to best models for health service delivery, to the way funds are being channelled, and many others. The emerging lists of research questions are now being analysed and we’re at the last stage of our ‘research agenda setting exercise’. Earlier steps involved broad stakeholder involvement through, among others, a web-based questionnaire, consultations during the Cape Town health system global symposium, and a well-attended webinar through which themes for research could be identified in a systematic and participatory way. The final research agenda will form the basis for wider consultations with the TWG membership.
Secondly, we discussed the way forward as a group, in terms of promotion of the research agenda, mechanisms to enhance involvement of the broad membership, and profiling the TWG to an external audience. Many useful ideas came up, including the production of a series of briefing notes and an article on some of the key issues pertaining to working on health systems in fragile and conflict affected states. We intend to produce these in the next couple of months. Another promising suggestion came from Dina Balabanova, HSG board member and co-chair of the TWG Teaching and Learning Health Policy and Systems Research HPSR, to join forces in providing open access HPSR resources with a focus on specific issues related to fragile states.
We are grateful for the Wellcome Trust for allowing us to host the meeting at the Trust. It is good to occasionally sit ‘in the same room’ (with still some others participating online) and have some more in-depth discussions. More than enough ideas and energy emerged to keep the TWG busy over the next months and in the lead up to the Vancouver Symposium.