The world is currently witnessing the worst public health crisis in recent history, with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic affecting millions of people in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. In light of the current global pandemic, the board of Health Systems Global recently announced its intention to convert the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research (HSR2020), originally planned for 8-12 November 2020, into a largely virtual event. This will be followed by a culminating policy meeting in Dubai in 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging health systems, economies and societies around the world. It is also creating unprecedented disruption for the global health and development community. As COVID-19 continues to spread, the most devastating effects will be in countries with fragile health systems, poor infrastructure and ongoing conflicts.
COVID-19 is a living proof that health systems, as they stand today, are not equipped to address the increasingly complex and interconnected health and development challenges of the twenty-first century. It is also a demonstration of the impact of public health on economic and political stability, development and prosperity. Addressing COVID-19 effectively requires a fundamental paradigm shift in the way we think about health systems by refocusing health systems towards preventive services and engaging with upstream political, social, economic and environmental forces that influence health and perpetuate health inequities and social injustices.
Engaging politically – The scale and breadth of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deficiencies of siloed and top-down approaches to decision-making, underscoring the importance of multi-sectoral collaborations that involve public, private, civil society and community actors within and beyond the health sector to shape the collective response and support the health, social and economic needs of those most affected. The precedence of political decisions over scientific evidence, manifest in the policy responses and resource allocations to COVID-19 across many countries, has reinforced the need to strengthen health system stewardship through timely collation of information, strong governance, strategic partnerships, and institutional mechanisms to support the use of evidence and promote accountability. Globally, the pandemic is forcing us to redefine global health and promote better global leadership to coordinate and enforce efforts across countries. It has also brought to the forefront the need for consideration of global public goods, global health ethics and equity in development and allocation of vaccines, supplies, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
Engaging social, economic and environmental forces – COVID-19 has underscored the dramatic nature of existing inequities in access to health services and ability to protect oneself from infectious disease, as well as the fact that these inequities often reinforce social disadvantage based on race, gender and citizenship. The increased risk of complications and mortality from COVID-19 among elderly populations, people with disabilities and underlying medical conditions, and rising gender-based violence have invited critical questions on how vulnerable groups and gender considerations are reflected in public health responses to and impacts of COVID-19. The treatment of migrants and refugee populations during the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed health systems’ inadequate response to population mobility, bringing the notion of universal health coverage beyond the basis of borders and citizenship to the forefront. The threats of nationalism, isolationism and institutionalized racism continue to rise, threatening to increase inequities that already plague health systems and global health.
Making the most of technological, data and social innovations – As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, technological applications and big data are emerging as fundamental tools for governments, healthcare providers and healthcare institutions to effectively respond to public health crisis and to improve access to healthcare. Yet, countries still grapple with challenging questions regarding privacy, patient rights, cybersecurity, data misuse and misinformation. It is timely to explore the implementation and effectiveness of innovations, but also their ethical, legal, environmental, political and social implications.
HSR2020 comes at a potentially defining moment as health systems across the world are under tremendous pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic and needing, perhaps more than ever, to learn from and collaborate with one another against a shared global threat to health, wellbeing and social justice. The themes of HSR2020 are critical to our success in addressing COVID-19 – seeking to break down old silos and re-orient health systems to address public health.
Accordingly, HSR2020 is pleased to announce a new call for COVID-19 specific abstracts that address the broader theme of ‘re-imagining health systems for better health and social justice’, and any of the three subthemes:
- Subtheme 1: Engaging political forces
- Subtheme 2: Engaging social, economic and environmental forces
- Subtheme 3: Engaging technological, data and social innovations
Cross-cutting questions that explore the ethical dilemmas, equity concerns and social injustices – within and influencing health systems – that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront are also welcome.
Abstract submissions are limited to organized sessions. Organizers may submit proposals for 75-minute sessions. These sessions may take the form of either traditional panel presentation (including adequate time for audience discussion and interaction), or participatory sessions such as round table discussions, debates, ‘fishbowl’ discussions, simulations, games, or any other approach that actively encourages audience participation and is possible to deliver using a virtual format. Unfortunately, the limited timeframe mean we are only able to process and review English language submissions for this new stream.
The organized session template and the criteria to assess organized session will be the same as those used in the original call for abstracts. Information about how to submit can be found here: https://hsr2020.healthsystemsresearch.org/abstracts. Organizers are urged to keep in mind the virtual nature of the sessions when deciding on the format and how to engage the audience.
The accepted abstracts will be grouped into the respective subthemes and presented alongside the abstracts already submitted as part of the original call for abstracts. Exceptionally, individuals who have previously submitted abstracts can still apply for the COVID-19 stream.
The integration of a COVID-19 stream into the HSR2020 scientific program will provide a much needed platform for engaging public and private sectors; governments, frontline health providers, implementers, innovators, NGOs, communities and citizens; and health and other sectors in deliberations about strengthening the health system response to COVID-19 and re-imagining health systems against a shared global threat to health, wellbeing and social justice. Whether you work in policy, practice, research, advocacy or education; whether you are concerned about health systems, humanitarian health, social protection, political economy, environmental sustainability, data science, media, ethics, human rights, social justice or more, we invite you to submit an abstract on COVID-19 and join the first global virtual symposium of its kind to learn, share, and inform the transformation of health systems.
The call for the new HSR2020 COVID-19 stream is now open until 30 July 2020. Submitters of accepted abstracts will be notified by the end of August.