We are pleased to announce that “Resilient and responsive health systems for a changing world” has been chosen as the theme for the Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, which will be held on November 14–18, 2016 in Vancouver, Canada.
Like the societies of which they are a part, health systems face constant new challenges. They must maintain a focus on health improvement even as they absorb unexpected shocks, respond to emerging needs and take advantage of new opportunities.
At HSR2016 in Vancouver we will interrogate evidence and share experience of health system resilience and responsiveness, building on the past HSR symposia focused on universal health coverage and people-centred health systems. Through dialogue and debate, we aim to deepen understanding of the multiple ‘real worlds’ within which health systems are embedded. We will explore ways of protecting and extending health equity and rights in the face of complex challenges such as economic crises, climate change and the combination of unfinished (e.g. maternal health) and emerging (e.g. chronic NCDs and rapidly globalizing epidemics) health agendas. We will also consider innovative ideas for health system development and inter-sectoral action for health, as well as push the boundaries of health system research in addressing the challenges of our changing world.
We invite you to share your experience and research, inform and learn from others, and transform health systems for the future, now.
Background to the Vancouver 2016 Symposium theme
Resilience: absorbing shocks and sustaining gains
Health systems around the world inevitably confront multiple converging global, national and local challenges: from economic crises to environmental disaster; from infectious disease outbreaks and violence to hidden epidemics of mental illness and malnutrition; from rapid urbanization to post-conflict fragility. Today’s top stories – Ebola and failing health systems in West Africa, maternal health, chronic disease, environmental disasters causing thousands of deaths, health care and public health systems facing economic crisis – highlight the convergence of ‘old’ and ‘new’ challenges, and the crucial role of research in understanding and confronting these converging priorities. Health systems must be resilient – able to absorb the shocks and sustain the gains already made – or risk having decades of investment wiped out.
Responsiveness: anticipating change, respecting rights and engaging politics
Health systems must also be responsive. They must anticipate future needs, as well as harness emerging opportunities to promote universal health coverage and universal access to effective interventions. Our changing world also brings new opportunities – from information technology and social media to bio-technology – that must be harnessed for building resilience and responsiveness. Health systems must respond to demographic and epidemiological shifts across the world: shifts that are themselves related to social, ecological, economic and geopolitical changes.
Tackling the diverse sets of current and future challenges demands robust and inclusive decision-making processes. Better governance, voice and accountability are essential for people-centred systems. Political action is needed to ensure adequate domestic financing reinforced with international support, where necessary, and efficient resource use.
Many health system drivers lie outside traditional ‘health’ boundaries. Working on them requires diverse groups to be brought together, including policy-makers, activists, community representatives, administrators, researchers and educators. Social mobilization and inter-sectoral action are essential for re-orienting health systems to be more people-centred. Research can evaluate and suggest new ways in which health systems and inter-sectoral collaborations can better respond to people’s emerging health needs, be directly accountable to communities, and ensure the rights and dignity of all people who use and provide health care services. Participatory action research in particular can directly enable people to voice their concerns and ideas for better health systems.
Health systems as incubators of innovation
Health systems are incubators of innovation. At HSR2016 in Vancouver, we will collectively engage and interrogate opportunities and modalities of transformation and resilience in health systems – in all their diverse realities – and as yet unforeseen challenges and opportunities that health systems may encounter. We seek to understand these diverse settings, and develop a more integrated understanding of the multiple ‘real worlds’ health systems are embedded within. HSR2016 will explore ways of preserving public value and public goods in the face of systemic changes that populations, governments and health systems as a whole have to confront, both today and in the future.
Whether you work on the role of the state or private sector, community participation, climate change, interdisciplinary modelling, intellectual property or maternal and child health, we invite you to share how your work can inform and learn from others, build the field, and transform health systems for the future, now.
The Symposium Programme: Deepening understanding and debate, building the field
The programme is beginning to take shape. The HSR Symposia seek to deepen understanding and debate on a specific theme, and also to build the field of health policy and systems research. This unique forum not only emphasizes research results but also how we do, share, use and critique research. A global symposium, it nevertheless engages issues particularly pertinent to the host setting and situates these in a global perspective. Watch for the call for abstracts and registrations in the coming months.
In the tradition of the biennial HSG symposia, we will continue to build the field of health systems research across five dimensions: cutting-edge research; innovative research approaches and measures; novel strategies for developing capacity; learning communities and knowledge translation; and, as introduced in 2014, innovative practice in health systems development.
For Vancouver 2016, a global consultation has generated ideas for cross-cutting programme sub-themes that include:
- Enhancing health system responsiveness and resilience in every setting.
- Equity, rights, gender and ethics: maintaining the value base.
- Engaging power and politics in promoting health and public value.
- Implementing improvement and innovation in health services and systems.
- New partnerships and collaborations for health system research and development.
- Future learning and evaluation approaches and strategies for health system development.