Join us in Cape Town for our panel on gender, ethics and health systems

Like many others we are getting excited about the upcoming Global Symposium on Health Systems Research which will take place in Cape Town at the end of September/beginning of October. If you are attending please do come and join us for our panel presentation, “New frontiers in advancing gender analysis in health systems research: context embedded approaches; intersectionality; and engagement with power and ethics.” The panel will take place on the 3 October, from 0930 to 1100 on the Roof Terrace.

Gender in health systems research needs to go beyond approaches that “add women and stir” or analyses health indicators by sex

The panel will illustrate three methodological approaches: 1) embedded approaches (analysis that is relevant to context, owned by local partners and where appropriate cross-sectoral); 2) intersectionality (presenting research that assesses how gender intersects with other axes of inequality, such as age, poverty, education, geography, disability and sexuality); and 3) the inter-related nature of gender and ethics in research, policy and practice. 

Super speakers

We will be led by an excellent panel of specialists:

Panel themes

The target audience for the session includes health system researchers and research users. Key lessons from the panel will be documented in a learning brief, containing key references and resources and shared with all. Discussions will be clustered around key themes:

Context embedded approaches:

  • To what extent can we generalise lessons from context embedded approaches beyond their immediate contexts.
  • What research approaches can best assess broad structural drivers of health determinants and build evidence to support  multi-sectoral engagement  beyond health.
  • What are the implications for sustainability and reflective practice in health systems research and practice?


  • What are the lessons learnt on methods, processes and capacities for intersectional research which capture how gender interacts with other axes of inequity (e.g. age, disability and poverty).
  • What are the implications for analysis and engagement of different stakeholders in the research process and for translating such research into action?

Gender, power and ethics:

  • How do power relations, gender and other axes of inequality feature within key ethical concerns in health systems research?
  • What are the approaches taken by researchers to strengthen ethical practice when inequitable power relations, gender and social exclusion are observed? 

We hope to see you there. If you have any advance questions or comments about the session please contact us on

Photo of a woman at clinic in Cambodia by CARITAS Takeo Eye Hospital courtesy of

nurses in zimbabwe

Everything you ever wanted to know about health systems in fragile and post-conflict settings

Well maybe you won’t learn everything, but I hope the title got your attention! This lecture by Barbara McPake gives a pretty sound overview of the issues. Perhaps you will be left thirsty for more information – in which case feel free to leave your questions and comments below.

Barbara asks:

  • What is it about post-conflict health systems that makes them different from others?
  • What’s the difference between post-conflict and fragile settings?
  • Is fragility normal?
  • For how long are you post-conflict?
  • What does the literature say about financing and human resources for health in these settings?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities for health systems research in post-conflict states?



Barbara has recently moved to The Nossal Institute for Global Health. We wish her luck!

Photo of nursing staff in Zimbabwe courtesy of the World Bank.

We want your photos! Gender, ethics and health systems

The aim of this competition, organised by Research in Gender and Ethics (RinGs), a new cross-RPC partnership between Future Health SystemsReBUILD and RESYST, is to capture the everyday stories of the ways that gender plays out within health systems around the world. The winning entry will be exhibited at the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, and be used to illustrate our website, and in other published materials with full credit to the photographer.

Gender-sensitive health policy is a feature of international commitments and consensus documents and national-level normative statements and implementation guidance in many countries. However, there are gaps in our knowledge about how gender and ethics interface with health systems. Our project shines a light on some of the ways that gender and health systems come together in a variety of settings. We are looking for photographers who can help us communicate this area of work visually. We welcome images of people of all genders from all areas of the health system, all around the world – be creative!

The deadline for entries is the 1 September 2014.
The judging

Photographs will be judged by a panel of gender specialists and a representative from the creative industry. They will be marked according to:

  1. Their content, i.e. their relevance to subject.
  2. Their ability to tell the story of gender and health systems, i.e. the message they contain, their creativity. We are looking for original and authentic visual representations of health systems in action.
  3. The technical merit of the photo, i.e. exposure, focus, colour, lighting etc.

We are looking for images which challenge stereotypes, encourage the viewer to learn more and act differently, and which respect the integrity of any people who may be photographed. There is a rich discussion on the ethics of photography in international development which should help guide entrants. Further information can be found here and here.

Who can enter and how to submit?

Those who have an experience of, or interest in, gender and health systems are very welcome to send images.

Send up to a maximum of three photos by email to

Submission requirements

  1. Size: At least 1MB
  2. Print resolution: 300 dpi
  3. Format: JPEG or tiff only
  4. Landscape and portrait images are acceptable
  5. Although some digital enhancement is acceptable we cannot accept images that have been digitally altered to change what is portrayed.

Send each photo separately and include in your message the following information:

  • Name of photographer:
  • Photographer email:
  • Photographer phone:
  • Title of photograph:
  • Location (country and city/town/village where the photograph was taken):
  • The date (if unknown, please provide the year) each photograph was taken:
  • The level of consent provided from any people pictured in the photo (see informed consent guidelines for more information):

Submit your entry

All images should be emailed to by the 1 September. We look forward to receiving your entries.

For more details please download the entry requirements and termsInformation about informed consent and a sample consent form are also available.

The image accompanying this story was provided courtesy of  UNHCR/S. Phelps

Maternity ward at Princess Christian Maternal Hospital

A window of opportunity for reform in post-conflict settings? The case of Human Resources for Health policies in Sierra Leone

We’ve been busy, working with others, on a Special Issue of Conflict and Health. More papers will be coming soon, so watch this space. In this article Maria Paola Bertone, Mohamed Samai, Joseph Edem-Hotah and Sophie Witter examined features of the post-conflict policy-making environment in Sierra Leone. The study looked at the development of policies on human resources for health (HRH) over the decade after the conflict (2002–2012).

What did they find?

At first policy making was characterized by political uncertainty, incremental policies and stop-gap measures. However, the context substantially changed in 2009. The launch of the Free Health Care Initiative was an instrumental event and catalyst for health system, and human resource policy, reform. However, after the launch of the initiative, the pace of decision-making again slowed down. The key drivers of human resources policy in Sierra Leone were: (i) the political situation, at first uncertain and later on more defined; (ii) the availability of funding and the stances of agencies providing such funds; (iii) the sense of need for radical change – which is perhaps the only element related to the post-conflict setting. It also emerges that a ‘windows of opportunity’ for reform did not open in the immediate post-conflict, but rather 8 years later when the Free Health Care Initiative was announced, thus making it difficult to link it directly to the features of the post-conflict policy-making environment.

What next?

We suggest that you read the whole paper, which is open access and free to download. You can find it on the Conflict and Health website.

The image in this blog is of the maternity ward at Princess Christian Maternal Hospital. The copyright belongs to Amnesty International.

Networking for better research, policy and practice

ReBUILD are really proud to be part of the Thematic Working Group on Health Systems in Fragile and Conflict Affected States which is hosted by Health Systems Global. They have a LinkedIn group. If you are interested please join! Our colleague Tim Martineau provided an update on what they have been up to since the start of the year.

“Since we began in January 2014 we have made progress; consolidating membership, beginning research on the landscape and priorities related to health systems research in post-conflict settings, and publishing our special issue. We are entering a phase where we need your involvement to improve governance and decision making processes, foster engagement and sharing of knowledge and experience, and create a real buzz at Cape Town.

We’re getting stronger lets reinforce the links

The group has been growing steadily and we now have nearly 100 members. Connecting us all up is already a major achievement. We all now need to make use of this valuable network. Please contribute to discussions, or start one of your own. If you see a news story that might interest all of us – post it! If you publish new research or read an article that makes you think – post it! Have a question and need expert advice – post it! We make a commitment to get your post up on line as soon as we can and engage with what you are saying. We hope the rest of the group will too.

We’re publishing, help get the message out

The call for papers for a Special issue of Conflict and Health on “Filling the void: Health systems in fragile and conflict affected states” has had a very good response. Many thanks to all of you who spread the word. The first papers in this series are starting to appear and an editorial will be published around the time of the Global Symposium on Health Systems Research. We’ll make an announcement through this group when the first papers are published.

We’re researching, feed into the process

We are now embarking on two other initiatives:

  • A ‘landscaping paper’ to highlight and debate how the framing of state fragility has impacted on donor, practitioner and researcher engagement with health systems in these settings. While the critique of fragility has evolved in the last decade, policy and practice on the ground has not kept pace. Donors, in particular, continue to underestimate complexity of building and sustaining health systems. We welcome your views and involvement in this debate.
  • A prioritisation exercise to identify key research areas for health systems in fragile and conflict affected states. We are just starting this process, but it involves a wide consultation exercise and of course we will be contacting you about this.

We’re raising (a little bit of) money

We have been fortunate in getting a small start-up grant from the Wellcome Trust. The grant will be administered through the ReBUILD consortium. The grant is helping is fund some of the publication costs for the special issue and staff to undertake the research prioritisation exercise, and landscaping paper (this includes some small meetings on research prioritisation). Travel funds will help us involve policy makers in the session we will be holding at the Global Symposium. We also have some money to provide some general support to the Steering Committee. It’s a good start.

We’re engaging with stakeholders, be part of the process

We have two sessions at the beginning of the Global Symposium, please add these dates to your diary and come along and support the Group.

  1. Technical session: this will include an introduction to the group, one or two short presentations based on papers published in the special issue, and a structured debate as part of the research priority setting process. This is currently scheduled for 09.00 -11.00 on Tuesday 30 September
  2. Business meeting: to discuss the governance of the TWG in future and the work plan. This is currently scheduled for a lunch-time session on Wednesday 1 October.

We’re getting organised: Would you like to be involved?

The Steering Committee (Tim Martineau,Egbert Sondorp,Suzanne Fustukian, and Steve Commins) has currently been working as small virtual body developing the programme and managing the LinkedIn group. We will be discussing the process of formalising our governance structure at the Cape Town business meeting, but will contact you through LinkedIn beforehand to get views and inputs. If you would like to play a more active role in the process please email Tim.”

The image used in this blog is provided courtesy of Christopher Penn.