Reimagining the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research

Reimagining the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research

Update on the format of the virtual Global Symposium

Reimagining the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research

In May, when the Health Systems Global Board decided to convert the Sixth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research (HSR2020) into a largely virtual event, we had little insight as to how best to structure it. While clearly the theme of HSR2020 – Reimagining health systems for better health and social justice – was even more relevant in a world struggling to contain Covid-19 than before, how we could reimagine our Symposium so as to create a vibrant and impactful space for dialogue and sharing insight was less clear.

In June, we fielded an online survey of everyone who had submitted abstracts as well as Society members to understand better what you wanted from a virtual event. More than 1600 of you responded to the survey and your replies were immensely helpful in informing our thinking.

Many of you stated that the most important thing to get out of a virtual symposium was exposure to new ideas, new ways of thinking and excitement about what the future holds in store for health systems. We also learnt that you preferred to maximize the number of live sessions rather than relying on recordings, and more than half of you stated that you would be willing to join over the weekend. Sessions made of up individual abstracts were the most highly valued, followed closely by skills building sessions. Finally, more than 40% of you said that you would be happy to help with delivering the program – thank you very much!

Based upon your preferences, we have decided that we will deliver a three-phase virtual symposium. During the original dates scheduled for the event in Dubai – 8th to 12th November – there will be a shorter and smaller version of the usual symposium. This will be comprised of some skills building sessions, and special panels on 8th and 9th November (the traditional pre-symposium days), and then three days (10th to 12th November) featuring about 3 ½ hours of programming every day, including a plenary, a set of parallel sessions, and virtual networking.

Text box listing the HSR2020 theme and sub-themes

The second phase will feature two rounds of parallel sessions every two weeks from the end of November through to March 2021. This will enable us to offer opportunities to more speakers than otherwise would have been possible. We also see it as a means of facilitating ongoing discussion, exchange and community building around topics of common interest. We will organize this second phase according to the HSR2020 sub-themes (see Box) and some of these series will be hosted by our Thematic Working Groups.

Finally, for the third phase in March 2021 we are planning for a culminating event, hopefully face-to-face in Dubai, that will seek to synthesize the main learnings coming from HSR2020 and consider how they can best be applied to health systems. This will likely be a smaller invitation-only event and we will have a strong focus on engaging with policy and decision-makers who can translate evidence into action.

Infographic showing the three phases of HSR2020

Even with this three-phase convening process, we will have far fewer slots for sessions than the usual week-long face-to-face symposium, so competition for spots on the agenda will be fierce. We are currently finalizing decisions about individual abstracts now that the overall structure of the Symposium is clear. While the number of speakers may be smaller, we hope that the format and the prolonged nature of a virtual HSR2020 will enable greater exchange, development of ideas, building of relationships and, hopefully, a new vision for health systems to emerge.

Please expect news in August on how to register, as well as more information about the ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ to participate in a reimagined HSR2020 that will mark the tenth anniversary of the Global Symposia on Health Systems Research.

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