What Constitutes a Resilient Health System?

What Constitutes a Resilient Health System?

{Photo credit: MSH staff/Haiti}Photo credit: MSH staff/Haiti

Multisector perspectives on achieving resilience in global health

Recent events, such as the Haiti and Nepal earthquakes and West Africa Ebola outbreak, have demonstrated, now more than ever, that a resilient health system is vital to ensuring stability and well-being in society. With this in mind, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and the USAID-funded, MSH-led, Leadership, Management, and Governance project in Haiti (LMG/Haiti), partnered with Johnson & Johnson to host a high-level panel event during the 68th session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The event, entitled Building and Maintaining Resilience to Address Global Health Challenges, examined how the global health community can move beyond typical public-private partnerships to achieve a model of true country stakeholder engagement. This model would include and leverage the strengths of all actors to build systems capable of addressing long-term global health issues like non-communicable diseases while maintaining resilience to outbreaks like Ebola.

[MSH President and CEO Jonathan D. Quick opens the WHA event.] {Photo credit: Brigid Boettler/MSH.}MSH President and CEO Jonathan D. Quick opens the WHA event.Photo credit: Brigid Boettler/MSH.

The panelists advocated for strong local and global leadership and a multi-sector approach to building resilient health systems, sparking discussion with a diverse crowd of WHA attendees on how all actors can work together to address global health challenges.

Key discussion points included: what constitutes a resilient health system -- from adaptability and preparedness to a strong health workforce -- and how the global health community can achieve these building blocks -- from investing more in health to ensuring global systems are in place for crises. As event panelist, Jean Patrick Alfred, MD, Assistant Director of the Unit of Programs and Studies for the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, pointed out:

Truly local outbreaks no longer exist. All health crises pose global health threats and require equal, global coordinated responses.

[Dr. Jean Patrick Alfred, Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, shares insights on how countries can achieve stronger, more resilient health systems.] {Photo credit: Brigid Boettler/MSH.}Dr. Jean Patrick Alfred, Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, shares insights on how countries can achieve stronger, more resilient health systems.Photo credit: Brigid Boettler/MSH.

MSH President and CEO Jonathan D. Quick, MD, MPH, opened the event before turning the microphone over to Rabin Martin’s President and CEO Jeffrey Sturchio, who moderated the panel. Panelist Richard Brennan MD, MPH, Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response for the World Health Organization (WHO), discussed how sustainability and good governance are key for resilience. He referenced the Ebola crisis in Liberia and the recent earthquake in Nepal to illuminate the impact of having a resilient health system in place.

Dr. Alfred brought a similar country perspective, stressing the importance of intersectorality and drawing parallels to the ongoing efforts in Haiti, where the current Government leadership has been proactive in working with all stakeholders to achieve a stronger and more resilient post-earthquake health system.

Carrie La Jeunesse, DVM, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Congressional Fellow, stressed the importance of empowering local capacity and local human resources to sustain health systems over the long term.

Johnson & Johnson’s Vice President for Global Health, Worldwide Government Affairs & Policy, Alan Tennenberg, MD, MPH, spoke from a private sector perspective as he discussed how to effectively approach mutlisector partnerships for health, emphasizing that investments in health are investments in local economies.

[(From left:) Dr. Jean Patrick Alfred, Dr. Alan Tennenberg, Dr. Carrie La Jeunesse, Dr. Rick Brennan, and Jeffrey Sturchio discuss how to achieve resilience to global health threats.] {Photo credit: Brigid Boettler/MSH.}(From left:) Dr. Jean Patrick Alfred, Dr. Alan Tennenberg, Dr. Carrie La Jeunesse, Dr. Rick Brennan, and Jeffrey Sturchio discuss how to achieve resilience to global health threats.Photo credit: Brigid Boettler/MSH.

Following the panel, Kent Brantly, MD, Medical Missions Advisor for Samaritan’s Purse and an Ebola survivor, shared his perspective on the need for coordinated response mechanisms, both on local and international scales, to effectively address global health challenges. Dr. Brantly reiterated that resilient health systems allow for resilient communities and societies, and emphasized that the topic of resilience must remain at the forefront of political and public conversation. USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health, Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez closed the event by highlighting the key actions necessary to move this conversation forward, reminding everyone that health and development are synonymous with resilience.

[(From left): Dr. Kent Brantly shares firsthand perspective on the importance of global health resilience; Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez closes the WHA event.] {Photo credits: Brigid Boettler/MSH.}(From left): Dr. Kent Brantly shares firsthand perspective on the importance of global health resilience; Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez closes the WHA event.Photo credits: Brigid Boettler/MSH.

Overall, attendees left with a greater understanding of how the global health community can work together to build resilient health systems that include and leverage the strengths of all actors.

Read a recap of the event in French on the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population website (PDF), written by MSH's Joseph Celicourt.

Watch video recording of the event:

Comments

Paul-Emile Dalexis
Beyond implementing measures to mitigate the crisis effects , we should have used the crisis as an opportunity to introduce structural health system reform
Carrie La Jeunesse
Paul-Emile, you are exactly correct. We are still working on this, and making progress. Underlying this structural reform you mention is the need for gathering "as is" situational awareness of what currently exists, where are gaps, where are opportunities, and what are possible solutions. This requires data and analysis, especially from the community level. Otherwise we do not know what resources are there and what individuals and communities want, need and will utilize. Likewise, truly listening to communities and engaging their trusted traditional healers and leaders, instills trust that is necessary for collectively managing crises and building lasting systems for resilience, preparedness, response and improved overall health and human security.

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