WHO Director-General to launch Health Systems Research Symposium

Published on 4 November 2020

On 5 November, Dr Adhanom Ghebreyesus Tedros, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) will launch of the Sixth Global Symposium for Health Systems Research (HSR2020) where he will be speaking of the importance of ‘reimagining health systems’ in Covid-19 times.

The 30-minute launch event will feature contributions from Dr Tedros and members past and present of the Emerging Voices for Global Health, Asha George, Health Systems Global Chair, and His Excellency Humaid Al Qutami, Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority.

The theme of HSR2020 – reimagining health systems for better health and social justice – is more relevant than ever in a world struggling to contain Covid-19.

On its 10th anniversary, the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research has been transformed into a virtual global gathering at a key moment for health systems around the world.

Learning to transform health systems in five months, three phases

HSR2020 will convene people from across the world to share, learn and explore how health policy and systems research can help underpin policy changes and investments, and guide essential transformations in our health systems.

A few days later, on 8 November, we will begin the first of three HSR2020 phases over five months. Through to March 2021, HSR2020 participants will exchange new ideas, new ways of thinking, and excitement about what the future holds in store for health systems.

Phase one will include skill-building sessions, special panels, parallel sessions, and opportunities for virtual networking. Programming will be adjusted each day to accommodate participants in different time zones, and all content will be available on-demand to registered participants.

The centrepiece of phase one will be three plenary sessions that will explore the sub-themes of HSR2020 through the insights and perspectives of leading policy, practice, and research experts from a diversity of contexts and disciplines.

On 10 November, the first plenary will explore who holds power relevant to health, how this power, and the political forces that it works through, shapes public health, and how powerful actors can be held to account and transparency in health systems can be promoted. It will feature contributions from:

Shining a light on inequality and injustice

HSR2020 comes at a potentially defining moment as health systems across the world are under pressure from the global pandemic and needs, perhaps more than ever, to learn from and collaborate with one another against a shared global threat to health, wellbeing and social justice.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown again that health systems often remain disconnected from the outside forces influencing health, such as political turbulence and closing civil space. It has reinforced how health systems can be exclusionary and fail to recognise those who are most vulnerable.

Poor people lacking health insurance coverage, people who are not citizens of a country, people whose rights are not fully recognised, continue to lack access to effective and high-quality health services in the communities they live.

Despite tremendous progress on medical diagnosis and treatments, many health systems continue to focus heavily on curative care and treatment and not on the prevention of illness.

The commitment to building new hospitals and treating the ‘middle classes’ can win politicians their elections. Yet power dynamics, corruption, and unregulated commercial interests continue to perpetuate social injustices and health inequalities.

As the global community contends with growing risks to human health from climate change, conflict and disease, inequality and lack of social cohesion that lead to greater stress, insecurity and poorer health outcomes for all, we must build health systems that reflect the equitable societies that we would prefer to live in.

Please register by 12 November to be part of HSR2020 and to #ReimagineHealthSystems.