Health system resilience: a critical review and reconceptualisation
Topp, Stephanie M
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Witter, S., Thomas, S., Topp, S.M., Barasa, E., Chopra, M., Cobos, D., Blanchet, K., Teddy, G., Atun, R. and Ager, A. (2023) ‘Health system resilience: a critical review and reconceptualisation’, The Lancet Global Health, 11(9), pp. e1454–e1458. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(23)00279-6.
This Viewpoint brings together insights from health system experts working in a range of settings. Our focus is on examining the state of the resilience field, including current thinking on definitions, conceptualisation, critiques, measurement, and capabilities. We highlight the analytical value of resilience, but also its risks, which include neglect of equity and of who is bearing the costs of resilience strategies. Resilience depends crucially on relationships between system actors and components, and—as amply shown during the COVID-19 pandemic—relationships with wider systems (eg, economic, political, and global governance structures). Resilience is therefore connected to power imbalances, which need to be addressed to enact the transformative strategies that are important in dealing with more persistent shocks and stressors, such as climate change. We discourage the framing of resilience as an outcome that can be measured; instead, we see it emerge from systemic resources and interactions, which have effects that can be measured. We propose a more complex categorisation of shocks than the common binary one of acute versus chronic, and outline some of the implications of this for resilience strategies. We encourage a shift in thinking from capacities towards capabilities—what actors could do in future with the necessary transformative strategies, which will need to encompass global, national, and local change. Finally, we highlight lessons emerging in relation to preparing for the next crisis, particularly in clarifying roles and avoiding fragmented governance.