Development of health systems and universal coverage should be evidence based, says WHO

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 06 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7530
  1. Trish Groves
  1. 1BMJ

The World Health Organization launched the first global strategy on research into health policy and systems last week at the Second Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Beijing.

The strategy calls for a more prominent role for such research, as many countries are aiming to strengthen their health systems and develop universal and equitable health coverage.1

The time is ripe to build this evidence base, said WHO, because countries are currently considering which priorities and development goals to pursue from 2015, when the United Nations’ millennium development goals will have run their course.

The advisory group that developed WHO’s strategy was co-chaired by Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, and Sujatha Rao, former secretary of health for India. The strategy, which drew on case studies from China, India, Mexico, and Thailand, aims to clarify the scope and role of health policy and systems research and to bring the worlds of research and decision making much closer together.

Over the next two years WHO will assess countries’ capacity for such research and monitor how much they invest in it. WHO said that it would also support the establishment of a global repository of practical knowledge to complement evidence emerging from peer reviewed literature.

The global symposium, hosted by Peking University’s health science centre and supported by several institutions, besides WHO, focused on the current state of health systems research; research collaborations between different sectors of academia and policy making; development of robust methods to assess the effects of healthcare reforms; and the use of such research to accelerate countries’ uptake of effective universal health coverage.

After three days, nearly 200 presentations among some 1800 delegates from 110 countries, and the formation of a new international academic society called Health Systems Global, the symposium committee released its “Beijing statement.”2 The statement calls for metrics and indicators of equitable healthcare, training in health systems research, and long term funding to set up and support institutions for health systems research.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7530