Building the Field of Health Policy and Systems Research: Framing the Questions

Examining the challenges and opportunities in Health Systems and Policy Research

Sheikh K, Gilson L, IA Agyepong, Hanson K, Ssengooba F, Bennett S, 2011

This is the first 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.

Topics of research in HPSR include international, national, and local health systems and their interconnectivities, and policies made and implemented at all levels of the health system. Research questions in HPSR vary by the level of analysis (macro, meso, and micro) and intent of the question (normative/ evaluative or exploratory/explanatory).

Current heightened attention on HPSR contains significant opportunities, but also threats in the form of certain focus areas and questions being privileged over others; ‘‘disciplinary capture’’ of the field by the dominant health research traditions; and premature and inappropriately narrow definitions.

We call for greater attention to fundamental, exploratory, and explanatory types of HPSR; to the significance of the field for societal and national development, necessitating HPSR capacity building in low- and middle-income countries; and for greater literacy and application of a wide spectrum of methodologies.

Journal publication | General