Dr Isabel Kazanga, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, College of Medicine selected for the Emerging Voices for Global Health (EV4GH) Program

Health Systems Global has organised the 4th Global Health Symposium on health system research which will be held in Vancouver, Canada in November 2016. The theme of the symposium is entitled, “Resilient and responsive health systems for a changing world”. Health Systems Global and its partners have also organized the Emerging Voices for Global Health (EV4GH) Program of which I have been selected to participate in. EV4GH is an innovative multi-partner blended training program for young, promising and emerging health policy and systems researchers, decisions makers and other health systems professionals with an interest in becoming influential global health voices. EV4GH 2016 is held in association and partnership with the 4th Global Health Symposium on health system research. The EV4GH 2016 selection was highly competitive with 222 applications from 50 countries.

Building Resilient and Responsive Health Systems for a Changing World

Health systems play a central role in promoting health and achievement of development goals. Strengthening of the health system is therefore a key strategy and priority for global health. Health systems across the world are facing many complex and converging global, national and local challenges due to our ever changing world.  These challenges may arise for instance due to the effects of globalization, emerging and persisting epidemics, rapid urbanization, climate change, natural disaster, environmental degradation, economic recession and pernicious social inequalities.

Health outcomes and progress towards agreed international health goals continue to remain low especially in developing countries. Many people continue to die every day in low income countries from preventable diseases, yet effective and affordable interventions exist for many priority health problems. Part of the challenge is to get existing and emerging knowledge about more effective strategies into practice. The evidence base also remains remarkably weak. Prices are falling and healthcare budgets are increasing. Many health systems are collapsing. As a result, in most developing countries, healthcare is inadequate, often delayed and accessible only to particular groups in the population. Inequalities in health status remain a key challenge for several health systems globally. In order to address the complex health challenges confronting many countries globally including Malawi, there is a need to enhance health systems resilience and responsiveness to be able to absorb the shocks, sustain gains already made and address the emerging health needs and challenges affecting our changing world.

In an increasingly globalized world, problems are shared. Shocks experienced by one country can affect the whole region and the entire world. All countries give rise to inequalities in health and socio-economic status. Global challenges can have an impact on current as well as future generations. The interconnected of global issues can be well tackled by cooperative action and the sharing of innovative solutions. Emphasis should be placed on promoting research to understand emerging global health priorities and sharing of evidence based practices. Addressing global health issues, determinants and solutions requires interdisciplinary, multi-sectoral and multi-national collaborations.

Building resilient and responsive health systems is now a global imperative. It can help to ensure that shocks in health systems no longer result in crisis or disasters. Health systems must ensure that they have evidence based public health policies in place, proper linkages in the system (both local and international), strong and interactive communications. They must also be adaptive and have the ability to predict and respond quickly to crisis. Resilient and responsive health systems can help to yield tremendous benefits in promoting health, health systems strengthening, achieving poverty reduction and economic development.

Building health systems resilience and responsiveness should also involve strengthening of the health systems building blocks (i.e. leadership/governance, service delivery, health workforce, financing, health information, and medical products, vaccines and technologies). The Head of Department for Health Systems and Policy Department at College of Medicine, Prof Mfutso Bengo also emphasizes on the need to particularly focus on LEGS (Leadership, Ethics, Governance and Systems) in health systems strengthening.