Background Paper on Conceptual Issues Related to Health Systems Research to Inform a WHO Global Strategy on Health Systems Research – 29 February 2012

Posted on March 20, 2012. Filed under: Evidence Based Practice, Health Mgmt Policy Planning, Health Systems Improvement, Research | Tags: , |

Background Paper on Conceptual Issues Related to Health Systems Research to Inform a WHO Global Strategy on Health Systems Research – 29 February 2012

Steven J. Hoffman et al

“This paper was commissioned to provide a conceptual underpinning for the WHO Global Strategy on Health Systems Research that is currently under development. It reviews existing definitions, terms, conceptual models, taxonomies, standards, methods and research designs which describe the scope of health systems research as well as the barriers and opportunities that flow from them. It addresses each of the five main goals of the WHO Strategy on Research for Health, including organization, priorities, capacity, standards and translation.1 Any feedback would be greatly appreciated and can be sent by email to Steven Hoffman (hoffmans@mcmaster.ca).”

“Abstract
Health systems research is widely recognized as essential for strengthening health systems, getting cost-effective treatments to those who need them, and achieving better health status around the world. However, there is significant ambiguity and confusion in this field’s characteristics, boundaries, definition and methods. Adding to this ambiguity are major conceptual barriers to the production, reproduction, translation and implementation of health systems research relating to both the complexity of health systems and research involving them. These include challenges with generalizability, comparativity, applicability, transferability, standards, priority-setting and community diversity. Three promising opportunities exist to mitigate these barriers and strengthen the important contributions of health systems research. First, health systems research can be supported as a field of scientific endeavour, with a shared language, rigorous interdisciplinary approaches, cross-jurisdictional learning and an international society. Second, national capacity for health systems research can be strengthened at the individual, organizational and system levels. Third, health systems research can be embedded as a core function of every health system. Addressing these conceptual barriers and supporting the field of health systems research promises to both strengthen health systems around the world and improve global health outcomes.”

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