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Building the Field of Health Policy and Systems Research: An Agenda for Action

Future Health Systems

Bennett S, Agyepong IA, Sheikh K, Hanson K, Ssengooba F, et al. (2011) Building the Field of Health Policy and Systems Research: An Agenda for Action. PLoS Med 8(8): e1001081. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001081


This is the third of a series of three papers addressing the current challenges and opportunities for the development of Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR). HPSR is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary field identified by the topics and scope of questions asked rather than by methodology. The focus of discussion is HPSR in low- and middle-income countries.

  • There is an urgent need to build the Health Policy and Systems Research (HPSR) field and in particular to develop understanding across different disciplinary boundaries.
  • The development of HPSR is impeded by a cluster of related issues, namely (i) a heavy reliance on international funding for HPSR, (ii) an excessive focus on the direct utility of HPSR findings from specific studies, and (iii) a tendency to under-value contributions to HPSR from social sciences.
  • Innovations in funding HPSR are needed so that local actors, including policy-makers, civil society, and researchers, have a greater say in determining the nature of HPSR conducted.
  • Strategic investment should be made in promoting a greater shared understanding of theoretical frames and methodological approaches for HPSR including, for example, the development of HPSR journals, methodological workshops, and shared HPSR teaching curricula.
  • Dedicated and supportive homes for HPSR need to be found within universities, and also be developed as independent research institutes.