By Angela Y. Chang, Doctoral candidate, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Given the tendency of the health systems research field to adopt one or two buzzwords every few years (the last one being ‘universal health coverage’), it did not come to me as a surprise when the largest gathering in the health systems community also adopted this keyword (see the theme for the Vancouver symposium –resilient and responsive health systems for a changing world). The latest buzzword in town (i.e., the field of global health) is “resilience”. Ever since the Ebola outbreak, this adjective has been tagged on to the titles of numerous articles and events, regardless of its relevance to the topic or not.

While I agree with the (numerous) proponents of this concept in the global health community that resilience is a beneficial characteristic to expect from any health system there are two aspects that I have to question:

The lack of clarity in its definition (at least when it comes to the global, local, regional levels); and
My interpretation of it as a secondary rather than primary objective of a national health system (I consider as primary objectives improving population health, providing financial risk protection, and achieving user satisfaction).

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