We heard the voices of young health systems researchers and their mentors loud and clear the Emerging Voices for Global Health (EV4GH) organized session on day one of the Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research. The EV4GH, is a unique Thematic Working Group of the Health Systems Global.
The opening plenary of the Symposium, set the scene for the challenges faced by the global health community highlighting the need for resilient and responsive health systems in the 21st century. The diverse panel brought a range of issues to the table from citizen’s choices and voices, primary health care, universal health coverage (UHC) to issues of health of immigrants and migrants.
However, in looking to the future, I was interested in hearing the voices and ideas from my fellow Emerging Voices. And honestly, amidst the rush and the many sessions, the EV4GH organized session was a welcome break to serious and heavy sessions of the Symposium.
The session, ‘From Emerging Voices to Emerging Leaders: Building Capacity and Negotiating Power in Our Field’ highlighted what the EV4GH initiative is all about- young, vibrant, and critical in reflecting over global issues. It was about breaking, and remaking the rules of the ‘game’.
Why EV4GH is an important program for young researchers?
As described by one of the panelists, EV4GH is an innovative platform with no set rules in the game. Young researchers are really free to play their tricks in communicating their research and voice their opinion on global health issues while being relevant to their local context. It is a participatory and engaging training platform where participants learn by doing themselves. Participants really get the opportunity to learn how to package their arguments, and learn by motivation.
Professor Wim Van Damme, Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) explained that the EV4GH program is all about empowering the voices of global south in the health systems research debate. To do this effectively, he called for young researchers to move away from the being slaves to Power Point and think about innovative ways to communicate research that is rooted in local realities. He further added that this program gives young researchers perfect opportunities to be critical in their thinking and reflecting on global health issues.
EV4GH provides a unique platform for young HPSR to collaborate and build a meaningful network. The panel, made up of current and past EVs, argued that as skills in research, advocacy, leadership and mentorship in health are missing in academic universities, the platform helps to support and ground researchers in the real world. The platform also places a lot of emphasis on research communication and engagement with policymakers which is undoubtedly integral to strong and rigorous research.
This program provides the space and platform for young researchers to build networking and help them grow professionally and personally. It supports them to identify their strengths and research interests that they are keen on building a career on. It provides ample opportunity to learn from diverse culture and context, how to address similar research question they have and enable them linking their local challenges- solutions to global health discourse.
Challenges still ahead for EV4GH
This is an inspiring and supportive program, but there are challenges ahead that are important to address:
- How can we go further to include research and researchers working in marginalized and remotest part of the world?
- How can we organize an EV4GH program in the global south to extend our reach?
- How can we more constructively and systematically engage with Health Systems Global in coming years in health policy and systems research (HPSR) approaches?
Finally, as we saw in the fishbowl discussion, we have to ask what can we as researchers can do to create change in a rigid health system? In fact, we found the answer in the session. As health systems researchers we have a responsibility to engage in politics, and underpin those dialogues with our evidence, insight and voices.
There is a clear energy amongst my comrades, which was palpable at the session. It felt, for a moment, that a young and diverse group of HPSR champions are rising up and challenging some of the conventional approaches we are so used to and breaking barriers to achieve a resilient and responsive health system.