The first Global Symposium on Health Systems Research was held in Montreux, Switzerland, in November 2010. The Symposium was attended by over 1,200 participants from more than 100 countries. It produced a clear message about what, how and why health systems research should be strengthened to contribute to universal health coverage around the world.

Several recommendations emerged from Symposium participants:

  • that research organizations, policy-makers and donors need to define, plan for and support a more compelling health systems research agenda to be carried out in low- and middle-income countries;
  • the capacity for health systems research in these settings needs to be strengthened;
  • new evidence and knowledge created through this agenda needs to be locally relevant; and
  • that new and more robust methodologies for health systems research are needed, particularly methods focusing on complex health systems interventions.

In addition, it was highlighted that there is currently no organization for or network of health systems researchers, decisionmakers and implementers to take forward the above agenda. As a result, consensus was reached, captured in the Montreux Statement (2010) on the need to create an international society for health systems research, knowledge, innovation and action. This society would focus on building a larger constituency and enhance the credibility and capacity for health systems research globally and in low- and middle-income countries specifically. It would be member driven and constitute the first global body fully dedicated to promoting health systems research.

A working group was established to create this society under the guidance of the Executive Committee of the Second Global Symposium on Health Systems Research. Membership in the working group was drawn from Symposium Steering Committee members with the addition of several others involved in health systems research. Funds for working group activities were provided by the Rockefeller Foundation with members of the Working Group contributing their time as a contribution in kind. Its mandate ended at the launch of the new organisation at the Second Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, in Beijing (Nov 2012).

Health Systems Global was legally founded on 26 October 2012 by Peter Berman, Tim Evans, Steven Gloyd, Prea Gulati, Marie-Gloriose Ingabire, Dan Kraushaar, Jeffrey Lazarus, Shenglan Tang and CHIP, University of Copenhagen.