In August of 2012, 22 health leaders from 16 countries met in Bellagio, Italy to discuss the advantages of approaching health systems strengthening and capacity building efforts in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) through a “complex, adaptive systems” (CAS) lens. Such a lens – already applied successfully to a variety of disciplines and sectors ranging from physics to business – provides the theory, language, and methods to describe and understand diverse and dynamic social systems like health. The meeting was sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and was titled “Strengthening Health System Capacities through Institutional Development: Enhancing Collaboration between Donors and Organizations in Low-Income Countries”.
Representatives from global health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), the Norwegian Agency for Development and Cooperation (NORAD), Enhancing Support for Strengthening the Effectiveness of National Capacity Efforts (ESSENCE), and other organizations attended. These stakeholders from diverse perspectives allowed for an in-depth and interdisciplinary analysis of health systems and the interactions between organizations and actors at the ground level.
The three-day meeting featured discussion and presentation of best practices in health systems strengthening, specifically as it relates to capacity development. As a group, we agreed upon several consensus points:
- Health Systems are complex, adaptive social systems that are impacted by sectors often considered “outside” of health, such as education, business, and social networks.
- Context is key. Flexibility in the ability to learn, adapt and optimize health goals and practices must be enhanced.
- The reductionist paradigm that has dominated health for the past century must shift to allow for long-term, locally driven efforts to emerge.
- Systems Thinking – a discipline that considers the dynamic interactions of actors in complex, adaptive social systems like health – provides unique and promising insights, approaches, tools, and methods that are underutilized in health.
Moving forward, we are grateful that the DDCF will be supporting post-Bellagio activities such as: writing and submitting academic papers for publication; generating awareness through this blog (ghsia.wordpress.com) and twitter (CASforHealthCapacity); writing and distributing “white papers” that clarify these ideas; and organizing and supporting a “community of practice” for joint learning. Please consider spreading the word and joining us! If interested, comment below, or email us at cas4capacity(at)gmail.com.
This paper, recently published, highlights key systems thinking tools and strategies that can be applied to transform health practice, policy, research, and education. The authors highlight three overarching themes that span these tools and strategies: collaboration across disciplines, sectors and organizations; ongoing, iterative learning; and transformational leadership.
The Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) have announced a new Call for Papers for a peer-reviewed Journal Supplement on: “Advancing knowledge and practice for using systems thinking for equitable health systems strengthening in LMICs”. See here: http://www.who.int/alliance-hpsr/alliancehpsr_callpaperstsupplement.pdf
You will notice that:
they aim to have 80% of primary authors from LICs;
there are financial incentives for writing and attending Beijing and another follow-up meeting; and
the deadline for proposals (abstract and plan) is soon (April 22).
Scott E Page is now teaching a free online course called Model Thinking. In this course, he presents an overview of many of the most important models in social science. This course is open to anyone and features assignments that will be graded automatically as well as quizzes and a final exam.
Follow the Link below to register for the course
Register for The Model Thinker
Organizers of the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research (HSR) are pleased to announce the Second Global Symposium – Inclusion and Innovation Towards Universal Health Coverage. This time researchers, policy-makers, funders, implementers, civil society and media representatives, and other stakeholders will gather in Beijing, China, to review the status of HSR since the last Symposium in Montreux (November 2010), to share new evidence, identify new opportunities and gaps, build understanding across disciplinary boundaries, and discuss the way forward to support HSR and the use of evidence in decision-making in low- and middle-income countries.
Abstracts can now be submitted here.
Deadlines for submission are:
Organized Sessions: 15 March 2012
Individual Abstracts: 1 May 2012
Abstracts can cover one or more of the following:
Three main themes:
• Knowledge Translation
• State-of-the-Art Health Systems Research
• Health Systems Research Methodologies
Three cross-cutting themes:
• Innovations in Health Systems Research
• Neglected Priorities or Populations in Health Systems Research
• Financing and Capacity Building for Health Systems Research
Symposium registration will open in May 2012.
This blog post, podcast, and publication by David Peters and others at Future Health Systems provides a very good introduction to health as a complex, adaptive system.
I will be moderating a conference call sponsored by the APHA on Systems Sciences and Health Systems Strengthening. on October 18. See here for details.