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DLSPH scholars explore resilient and responsive health systems at global symposium

January 9/2017

The DLSPH had an impressive showing at the fourth annual Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Vancouver from November 15-18, 2016 that was hosted by the Canadian Society for International Health. The conference theme was resilient and responsive health systems for a changing world and tackled a number of cross-cutting issues, including how health systems could become incubators of innovation.

“We need to act now and in collaboration to adapt health systems to meet the needs of the highest users in high-income countries,” wrote Onil Bhattacharyya in an article published in The Conversation that was discussed at the symposium.

“It’s not too late for middle-income countries to build patient-centered systems that meet those needs as they arise,” wrote Bhattacharyya, who is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Health Policy Management and Evaluation and the Frigon-Blau Chair in Family Medicine Research at Women’s College Hospital.

Bhattacharyya led a successful session in partnership with Associate Professor Xiaolin Wei about managing aging populations with multiple morbidities that attracted more than 30 participants from Canada, Australia, China, UK, Bolivia, Brazil and many other countries. The session was one of the first initiatives resulting from the tri-party collaboration between DLSPH and the schools of public health at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and the University of Melbourne.  It was inspired by conversations with faculty members involved in the collaboration’s December 2015 workshop in Shanghai that was organized by Rani Kotha, Senior Strategist in Global Health for the University of Toronto’s Institute for Global Health Equity and Innovation, who successfully proposed the session to the Global Symposium.

The session’s participants discussed issues related to aging in four urban settings — Toronto, Shanghai, Delhi and Melbourne — with emphasis on health practice and policy implications of primary care for low-and middle-income countries.

“I was approached by people from British Columbia, Bolivia, Antwerp and China commenting on the unique collaboration among Toronto, Melbourne, and Shanghai, and the richness of comparison that it brings to the body of knowledge,” said Professor Wei, who is an Associate Professor of Health Systems and Clinical Public Health in Asia at DLSPH.

In addition to Professors Bhattacharyya’s and Wei’s session, more than 10 DLSPH and IHPME faculty members also presented at the symposium, including (but not limited to):

  • Zulfiqar Bhutta‎ — Quality and equity for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health;
  • Andrea Cortinois – Health systems in the age of mass migration (with Denise Gastaldo and Astrid Escrig)
  • Erica Di Ruggiero — Canada’s vision and strategy for Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Lisa Forman — Learning (and not learning) from Zika and other crises;
  • Jennifer Gibson — Ethics and priority setting in health system decisions;
  • Stephanie Nixon — Advancing an HIV and rehabilitation approach to improve maternal, child and newborn health in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Andrea Tricco — Engaging policymakers and conducting rapid reviews on health policy and systems research;
  • Xiaolin Wei – Health system innovations in responding to irrational use of antibiotics in African and Asian countries

The symposium was also open to students beginning their careers in global health systems research, including Astrid Escrig, a second-year doctoral student in the Collaborative Doctoral Program in Global Health and member of the Global Migration and Health Initiative, who talked about the role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in migrant health.

“Our work on migrant-inclusive governance for health has received a lot of attention at the Symposium and we’re exploring opportunities for collaboration with an academic institution in the UK and with the International Organization for Migration,” said Escrig. “We have also been invited to submit a paper on this topic for a special issue on human rights of Global Health Governance.”

In addition to Escrig, Afnan Naeem was another student in attendance who interpreted the discussion through a social determinants of health lens.

“Health systems research is a highly interdisciplinary area that speaks to the broader notion that in order to influence health, you must go beyond healthcare and the health sector,” said Naeem, who is a first-year student at DLSPH pursuing an MPH in Health Promotion with a Global Health Emphasis.

“That’s why it’s important to engage all sectors of researchers, policy makers, government, and civil society in the process of achieving and maintaining effective health systems.”

Click here for the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research program.

Click here for event photos.