News & Commentary

19 June 2015

Resilient and responsive health systems the focus of the Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research

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 .

Archived comments

Emmanuel RMA Mtete 31 August 2015 at 07:42

Indeed the theme is very reflective of the current challenges for Health System especially in the developing world. Looking forward into an enlightened symposium with new evidence for improved health outcome.

Farzana Nawaz 04 September 2015 at 04:46

Looking forward to having you with us in Vancouver, Emmanuel Mtete!

Ms.Avaliani Nino 12 September 2015 at 07:34

NATIONAL ASSISTANCE FOUNDATION GEORGIA Greetings from Georgia. We sincerely wish you successes in your endeavors and especially during the International Initiative which will be held on November 14–18, 2016 in Vancouver, Canada. Georgia has been actively working on the issue that made the different countries to join their efforts since 2004 with financial support of the British Red Cross. The donor completed its’ assistance and decided to face the similar challenges since 2010. Hence a non-governmental organization “National Assistance Foundation” that takes care of 2178 single elderlies and have 527 members. We would like to ask you to provide us with an opportunity to participate in the abpve noted symposia (with a guest status). That will provide us a chance to share our experiences as well as to learn about those new processes that are taking place in Canada nowadays in regards to the wellbeing of such vulnerable groups. The new experiences that can be gained from our participation in this symposia and adapting such practices in Georgia will significantly help us in improving the quality of life and medical assistance of the vulnerable elderly population. Please let us you’re your thoughts on the participation of the Georgian delegation. Four persons will represent Georgia, based on the specificities of their work. It will be also highly appreciated if you can let us know about any details of any related financial implications of our participation. Thank you in advance for your consideration and response. Sincerely, Nino Avaliani Chief Executive National Assistance Foundation”

King 08 October 2015 at 18:50

Looking forward to the call for abstracts Regards, King

Musoke Grace Henry 14 January 2016 at 02:26

The plate is full drawing from experiences from low income African countries, south of the Sahara in particular. We have a lot to share on resilient and responsive health systems for a better world. I am looking forward to the symposium.

Xin Wang 07 March 2016 at 05:34

There have been many health reforms in China since 2009. After many not successful tries, we realized that we should deal with the challenges from the perspective of the whole health system rather than specific problems. Now, We have a lot to share and hope to get experience from other countries on resilient and responsive health systems. I am looking forward to the symposium.

E. Tambo 16 April 2016 at 06:46

Great opportunities to showcase and share experiences and lessons learnt on the impact of free, open access resources and knowledge sharing culture amongst researchers, publishers and all stakeholder in fast-tracking, building and promoting resilience and proactive health systems culture, and strengthening commitment, stewardship and investment in emerging threat and epidemics preparedness and smart response. After Beijing in 2012 that will be another memorable momments in Vancouver later this year, 2016. Don't miss it.