The emergence of global attention to health systems strengthening

Tamara Hafner, Jeremy Shiffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

After a period of proliferation of disease-specific initiatives, over the past decade and especially since 2005 many organizations involved in global health have come to direct attention and resources to the issue of health systems strengthening. We explore how and why such attention emerged. A qualitative methodology, process-tracing, was used to construct a case history and analyse the factors shaping and inhibiting global political attention for health systems strengthening. We find that the critical factors behind the recent burst of attention include fears among global health actors that health systems problems threaten the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals, concern about the adverse effects of global health initiatives on national health systems, and the realization among global health initiatives that weak health systems present bottlenecks to the achievement of their organizational objectives. While a variety of actors now embrace health systems strengthening, they do not constitute a cohesive policy community. Moreover, the concept of health systems strengthening remains vague and there is a weak evidence base for informing policies and programmes for strengthening health systems. There are several reasons to question the sustainability of the agenda. Among these are the global financial crisis, the history of pendulum swings in global health and the instrumental embrace of the issue by some actors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-50
Number of pages10
JournalHealth policy and planning
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

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Keywords

  • Health systems strengthening
  • global health
  • political priority

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy

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