Systems Thinking in Global Health: Video Review

Systems Thinking for Capacity in Health (ST4C Health) recently released a video in an attempt to start a revolution in global health. Dr. Chad Swanson narrates the video and begins with a personal story about his mission to Mozambique 12 years ago to understand “how people suffer and die on a personal level.” From his experiences on the trip, he concluded:

  • Global health interventions need to take into account all the associated contextual factors and underlying causes in order to change health systems
  • The current structure of global health approaches is inadequate and requires a systems thinking approach to make a real, lasting difference

On their website, ST4C Health defines systems thinking as “a novel, transformational way of thinking about and approaching health […] based on the idea that when all stakeholders and their interactions are considered as a whole, we can better understand health problems than we can when only viewing each part in isolation. Such an approach means that we must consider economic, political, and social factors – factors that might seem unrelated to health. Also, since health challenges are complex, and solutions differ depending on time and place, we cannot impose a top-down plan of action and expect predictable, positive results all the time.”

I don’t believe systems thinking is a novel idea. Rather, I believe this idea is generally understood and accepted in the global health field, however it’s definitely challenging to turn it into action. It’s much easier to focus solely on one disease or population at time. In fact, that’s how funding is distributed.

With limitations on time, human resources, finances and more, how can we stay focused on the big picture and supplement our current siloed efforts? What do you think it will take to make this revolution a reality?