Health systems researchers are the type of people that want to solve problems. Often, they have a vision of a better world and this inspires them in their work. The values that guide them might include social justice, the reduction of inequities, or improvements in wellbeing.
Creating more healthy societies is about more than the fixing of a particular illness – it is about transformation, revolution, and seismic change. Working together is an opportunity to profoundly re-organise the way health systems work which can impact upon the societies that they serve.
Many of the resources in this section consider how we should decide which research areas are a priority by assessing their relative benefits. For example, the blog (2016) and paper by Benatar (2017) challenge health researchers consider economic, cultural and political systems in their work and link it to planetary health and ecological systems as a catalyst for positive change.
The paper by Barsdorf and Millum (2017) advances the idea that ethical health research should focus on those most effected by ill-health and those interventions which would benefit the largest number of people. We have included a paper by van de Pas et al. (2017) which explores whether the recent drive for health systems ‘resilience’ takes us nearer or further away from an approach that prioritises equity, global solidarity and justice.
Pratt (2014) suggests that health systems researchers’ efforts to take an equitable approach are hampered by the need to meet global targets that may not align with local need and a one-size-fits all approach to capacity development. This argument is advanced and elaborated on in paper by Pratt and Hyder (2015).
Pratt et al.’s (2015) review of 104 researchers to assess how equity orientated their practice in low- and middle-income countries suggests that there is room for improvement, particularly in terms of the selection of populations upon whom to focus studies. Also included in the resources is Pratt and Hyder’s (2017) assessment of the Maternal and Neonatal Implementation for Equitable Health Systems (Manifest) project and its relation to “research for health justice”.
The editors of the special section of the Health and Human Rights Journal highlight that the dynamics of global health fieldwork and the nature of the relationships that emerge through it have been conspicuously under-explored in global health scholarship. Their focus is on the ways in which participants interact and experience the work of global health. It is an effort to shed light on some of the ethical challenges of fieldwork and to explore terrain that might lead to practical ethical guidance for global health fieldworkers. The articles present a wide array of global health fieldwork ethics challenges, which powerfully illustrate the ways in which global health has not adequately addressed on-the-ground ethics, as well as point to important points of entry to improve our ethical practices and to develop clear guidance and support for fieldworkers in global health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on existing systemic inequities, both in terms of health inequity and broader socio-economic inequities.1 There have been calls globally not just to build back better but to do so in a way that dismantles structural inequities. Abimbola et al have outlined facets of supremacy, encompassing coloniality, patriarchy, racism, white supremacy and saviourism, […]
What role can health policy and systems research play in supporting responses to COVID-19 that strengthen socially just health systems?
To say that we live in turbulent times is a massive understatement. COVID-19 ruthlessly exposes the fault lines of health services and systems, and the responses put in place to prevent its spread or mitigate its effects may affect people more than the actual infection. The outbreak in Wuhan quickly grew to a pandemic that […]
Global health research should generate new knowledge to improve the health and well-being of those considered disadvantaged and marginalised. This goal motivates much of the global health research being undertaken today. Yet simply funding and conducting global health research will not necessarily generate the knowledge needed to help reduce health disparities between and within countries. […]
Health policy and systems research (HPSR) is increasingly being funded and conducted worldwide. There are currently no specific guidelines or criteria for the ethical review and conduct of HPSR. Academic debates on HPSR ethics in the scholarly literature can inform the development of guidelines. Yet there is a deficiency of academic bioethics work relating to justice in […]
In April 2018, a group of 29 global health researchers and practitioners from various disciplines, institutions, and career phases—from students to CEOs—came together for the Workshop on Ethically Managing Global Health Fieldwork Risks held at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, USA. All the participants had worked in global health, and experienced situations in the […]
In this blog Benatar argues that a shift in attention from individual health to population health requires new ways of thinking inclusive of our interactions with the biosphere and planetary sustainability. He suggests that, “current global crises include the instability of a fraudulent global economic system; wide disparities in health, disease burdens, human well-being and suffering; […]
“Not Everything That Is Faced Can Be Changed, but Nothing Can Be Changed Until It Is Faced”: A Response to Recent Commentaries
Given the unsatisfactory and unpredictable nature of progress, and the critical state of the world, ongoing consideration of alternative possibilities for better social systems continues. ‘Imperial common sense’ should be challenged and widespread support generated for use of our capacity to do better for global/planetary health through ‘rethinking the traditional bureaucratic model of postwar intergovernmental […]
In this article we argue that the social value of health research should be conceptualized as a function of both the expected benefits of the research and the priority that the beneficiaries deserve. People deserve greater priority the worse off they are. This conception of social value can be applied for at least two important […]
The Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research was themed around ‘Resilient and responsive health systems for a changing world.’ This commentary is the outcome of a panel discussion at the symposium in which the resilience discourse and its use in health systems development was critically interrogated. The 2014–15 Ebola outbreak in West-Africa added momentum for […]
This editorial identifies three areas of ethical tension in health systems research: 1) the dominance of global targets in priority setting which may crowd out health systems research that is responsive to local needs in favour of research on service delivery and scale up of interventions geared to support the achievement of global goals like […]