Wednesday, 31 October 2012

KNOTS blogger

KNOTS blogger

Health Systems Global – why care????

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 07:26 PM PDT


As colleagues from around the world converge on Beijing, I am stuck in Washington, D.C. with the flight departure screens displaying a never-ending list of cancelled flights. Here in D.C. not many people are aware of the symposium in Beijing, and not many people care about Health Systems Global – or as I would prefer it  to be called, the new Society for Health Systems Research. I am reminded of an email written by a friend when I wrote suggesting that he stand to be a Board member – he wrote back, saying (and I paraphrase): “Why should I care about this, I don’t think this  new global society will have much impact on my country, or the things that I care about.” From a wind and rain-swept, election-obsessed D.C., it is easy to feel the same.

But I do care, and I am upset that I will not be there for the opening of the Symposium. Why is this?

I have been blessed to have worked with some fantastic researchers in this field – too many to name them all here – but despite this, it has been rare that I have felt part of a professional community. I have constantly had to think about how I position my specific interests in health systems research in a way that will make sense to my epidemiological/ economist/ policy-oriented [delete as appropriate] colleagues. At the first symposium in Montreux I was struck by the fact that, for the first time ever, 80% of my professional network was present at the same meeting.

Cynics might say, ‘So what, this is just another opportunity for an expensive jamboree, that everyone enjoys but achieves little in the end’. I beg to differ.

No one came to HSR to get rich, or to have their name plastered all over the Lancet (pah, the Lancet only recently figured out how much HSR matters). We came because we were intrigued by the dilemmas, because we saw the potential to change health systems, and we began to get an inkling of the major impacts that such changes could have on the poor – not just on their access to services, but on how their voice is included in policy debates, and how their needs are reflected across government.

Health systems research has been an orphan subject for way too long – squeezed between prestigious, epidemiological randomized control trials on the one hand, and mainstream social science research on the other. The Symposium and the new global society for health systems research can be the first steps in changing this and thus, changing the way health systems work for the poor and disenfranchised, as well as the middle class. And that’s why I’m standing for election to the Board of the Society.

For the Society to really work, we need everyone engaged – all those who have been laboring in the HSR trenches and who currently think that there is nothing in Beijing, nor the Society, for them. Despite IHP’s best (and sometimes extremely entertaining efforts), many of us are still in the dark as to what the Society is about. That needs to change: with transparent and responsive governance, the Society could help build community, build HSR capacity, develop a common language and terminology for HSR, and help enable us all to be the change agents in health systems that we want to be.

Airports in D.C. re-open tomorrow: I will be in-line early. Wish me luck!

Emerging Voices 2012: Moses’ experiences

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 04:53 PM PDT

Moses gives his presentation at the final conference


The 2nd Global Symposium on Health Systems Research officially kicks off today here in Beijing, but I’ve already been here for nearly two weeks participating in the Emerging Voices program. Emerging Voices is a joint venture by the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp and Peking University School of Public Health designed to build presentation skills and strengthen voices of younger health systems researchers. The program was incredibly diverse, featuring courses on issues related to health systems research and skills-building workshops on scientific presentation and scientific writing in English in addition to cultural activities in China.

I was selected to participate in the venture as a young researcher from Makerere University School of Public Health in Uganda. I am a part of the wider FHS team in Uganda, where I focus on maternal and neonatal health in low-income settings like Uganda. Now that the venture is over, there are three main reflections I have on the two-week session.

The first part of the training program involved an introduction to new methods of presenting scientific research findings to a diverse audience in an effective way. Two particular methods were introduced: Pecha Kucha and the Prezi. Both of these mechanisms have at their core the use of illustrative pictures to communicate. Pecha Kucha emphasizes brevity, with twenty slides of images each rotating automatically after twenty seconds to force the presentation forward. Prezi is an online system for creating dynamic and creative presentations. I found these approaches very creative as it differed from the convectional PowerPoint presentation principals, which mostly have text. The other advantage of the picture principle is that it gives the presenter the opportunity make the presentation in amore natural and interesting way, therefore capturing the attention of the audience.

Secondly, we had cultural and field visits in which we were treated to different local Chinese traditional sites and introduced to the Chinese health system.  I particularly found the cultural visits very rich and was delighted to be able to touch base with old Chinese traditions, which are very vividly painted at the Great Wall, the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City.  I was also more than delighted to have a chance of seeing a panda at the Beijing Zoo. But more importantly, during the field visits, I was part of a group that went to what is called the ‘rural parts of Beijing’. Here we visited the district health office and two of their health centers. I was particularly impressed by the integration of Chinese traditional medicine with the western medicine within the mainstream health system. This means that they give both disciplines and approaches adequate resources and attention in terms of developing them further.

And lastly, Emerging Voices offered me an important chance to meet and receive some career guidance from senior health systems researchers. We had a huge number of senior researchers and I was able to meet some experts in participatory action research methodologies. This was of interest to me because it forms the principals upon which we are building our current FHS intervention – MANIFEST. MANIFEST is the maternal and neonatal implementation for equitable systems. Our overarching goal is to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality through tapping into exiting community resources and working through exiting structures in order to increases chances of continuity. I believe that Emerging Voices has introduced me to a network of researchers in my field and therefore opened possibilities for learning and sharing. I therefore want to sincerely thank the organizers of the emerging voices first for the organization and for partially funding my training. I would also want to thank the Future Health Team in Uganda for supporting my travel to Beijing to attend this training.

FHS at the 2nd Global Symposium on HSR: Blogging from the front lines

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 04:27 PM PDT

A view of the Bird's Nest in Beijing, around the corner from the Beijing International Convention Center, where the Symposium is taking place


It may be stormy and snowy on the eastern seaboard of the United States, but in Beijing, China, the ginko leaves are starting to turn golden and it’s been a crisp couple of fall days. Members from across the FHS research consortium are gathering here this week to participate in the 2nd Global Symposium on Health Systems Research. According to their website, the symposium is ‘dedicated to evaluating progress, sharing insights and recalibrating the agenda of science to accelerate universal health coverage (UHC)’.

With nearly 1,900 participants registered to attend, we’re expecting the symposium to be very busy and for that main theme to play out in a variety of ways. FHS alone will be participating in a wide range of activities throughout, from the Emerging Voices pre-session, to various satellite sessions today, a stall in the marketplace and number of panels, presentations, posters and even a video presentation.

In particular, FHS will bring attention to the role of the private sector in health service delivery, how a complex adaptive systems (CAS) approach generates new insights to health systems functioning, promoting cross-learning among BRICS countries, effective mechanisms for building capacity for health systems research, and approaches to policy influence and research uptake.

We know that not everyone interested in these issues could be here in Beijing. As such, FHS researchers will be sharing their diverse perspectives throughout by offering opinions and reflections on the FHS blog. Please note that these blogs represent only the opinions of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the position of FHS as a consortium, other researchers or partners within the consortium or of our main funders.

Presentations, videos and pictures will also be made available online, so stay tuned!