Call for abstracts


*Please note, the calls for organized and individual session abstracts are now closed as the deadlines have passed. 

Symposium theme

Systems Performance in the Political Agenda: Sharing lessons for current and future global challenges

Health systems face significant challenges all around the world. The experience of the COVID-19 pandemic reveals how valuable strong health systems are to society, lays bare multiple weaknesses in low-, middle- and high-income settings alike, and has also shown us that now, more than ever, trust and solidarity, equity and social justice are the central and most important values from which to build back stronger, more resilient health systems.

HSR2022 aims to face the challenge of optimally sharing – and learning from – the experiences of the last two years. A health system’s capacity to analyze and respond to new research and emerging knowledge must be central for responding to existing and future health needs. It aims to further explore how to deal with the structural issues that all health systems face. We look forward to learning about how different contexts tackled challenges related to how the larger social, political, and economic determinants of health shape service provision; the training and deployment of human resources for health, and how valuable they are in light of their role during the pandemic; but most importantly, for how the intersection of politics and health policy influence the quality of care.

Within the overarching Symposium theme, we welcome abstracts linked to the following four sub-themes, each of which consider structural and contextual components where COVID-19 is the main protagonist:

Structural: Health systems can only build back trust if they are able to care for the whole of the population they are there to serve, while also being able to focus on historically excluded and vulnerable populations that are structurally marginalized. This theme looks at participation and how people interact and engage with the health system, political leadership, the need for accountability, health system governance, and research capacity. Guided by systems thinking and built on the solid use of quantitative and qualitative methods occurring in highly politicized environments and all income contexts, it explores how these components consolidate the sectoral agenda for health system reform as well as channel efforts towards particular approaches to improving health system performance.

Contextual/Covid specific: The pandemic has been revealing new challenges for health systems, including the need to revisit issues related to power and the role of politics, including the policy development process, and the essential place for all human rights, particularly the right to health. In addition, it also showed that there is an urgent need for well-organized responses to global risks. This includes the need to close the gap between countries and regions in new and definitive ways, and how international and multilateral organizations can improve the response in all income settings. Furthermore, the rise of misinformation increases the complexity of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The post-pandemic world calls for reimagining the role of civil society, and the responsibilities that global organizations such as Health Systems Global have to play in creating, debating, and disseminating experiences; promoting knowledge and technology transfers among countries between the Global North and South; and resetting health care systems to address the pandemic. How have the different political landscapes affected health system responses to the pandemic? What are the risks and opportunities that health system reform opens as a result of these past two years? And, how do the different stakeholders and their voices impact the way we address global health challenges?

Structural: Throughout the world, health is considered a societal good, and equitable approaches to address health disparities require responses from, and coordination with, other sectors such as social protection, education, trade and transportation, agricultural and industrial sectors. Additionally, it is important to understand how these sectors are impacted by societal changes such as those occurring in labor markets and the economy overall. Designing comprehensive social policies requires acknowledging how social determinants and policies interact with and feed each other, moving from partial approaches to sustainable solutions. This theme will explore how the complexity found in the interactions of different actors impacts the larger social, political, macroeconomic, and international trade determinants of health. We call for policy experiences showing how these processes were integrated, and how they can be analyzed and better understood through the use of different methodological and theoretical approaches. This includes exploring how social policies, sustainable development goals, food security including quality of foodstuffs, environmental risks, and others affect and shape demands for healthcare provision.

Contextual/Covid specific: The experience of these past two years has shown how politics and policies from health and other sectors in society impact a health system’s ability to respond. This requires an understanding of how cross-sectoral coordination during this emergency took place, where intersectoral experiences for addressing health, social and economic effects of the pandemic can be leveraged to improve equity. Particularly, we look to showcase an array of implemented initiatives, such as income compensations to families, tax reductions to goods and services producers, policies for distance working and learning, mobility constraints, and community arrangements to tackle jobs losses, that have impacted individual and collective responses to COVID-19 and the efforts to monitoring their impact. Furthermore, we seek to understand how to follow up with changes toward SDGs during and after the pandemic.

Structural: A strong and well-performing health system contributes to enhancing the overall health ecosystem by increasing the use of evidence-based policies and the development of innovative partnerships that lead to improved coordination in providing health care. In many cases, the organizational characteristics of health care systems -decentralization, fragmentation, public and private actors interacting at different levels, international donors – require strong coordination efforts to reach equitable access and identification of the pros and cons for each institutional arrangement to improve health systems performance. This includes the need for improved accountability in the decision-making processes where corruption and nepotism may take hold. As countries continue to experience double burdens of disease, alongside the emergence of new illnesses, health systems need to respond with improved approaches to deal with referrals, both formal and informal, across the different levels of care. To do this, they must continue to put people at the center while seeking to improve effectiveness through innovative approaches that ensure that no one will be left behind. Human resources for health are at the core of this theme. How they engage with and are supported by the health system matters because it shapes the quality of care they are able to provide, as well as how they engage with the communities they serve in order to promote health. Different mechanisms for measuring performance, improving supportive supervision, and further developing capacity, as well as how to use monetary and non-monetary incentives, are just some of the several alternatives that can be applied, alone or in combination, to enhance the quality of care. This, in turn, can improve equity and increase trust levels in all levels of the health system.

Contextual/Covid specific: The COVID-19 pandemic shows us that innovation is possible even in times of dire crises. New processes and increased investment can improve health system performance. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, and the use of big data, can help to guide efforts. However, this requires priority-setting mechanisms across different levels of care and public social insurance-private donor coordination to tackle emergencies. If yielded correctly, it can increase health system responsiveness and help the effort to rebuild better healthcare systems and increase resilience. COVID-19 has had a strong effect on the prioritization of specific services. What have been the politics and policies that different countries have implemented when responding to the pandemic? How have health systems performed regarding the use of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as lockdowns, social distancing, and contact tracing, among others? How are health systems preparing to provide for those that were neglected during lockdowns? We call for studies on priority-setting processes and for how systems in all resource contexts will ensure there is care for chronic illnesses, mental health, SRH, and adolescent health beyond reproductive services, as well as human resource responses to the pandemic. This includes capacity building at the service level, administrative, IT, communication skills development efforts, and reallocation of resources across levels of care, as well as institutional responses to COVID-19, like the institution of quarantines, contact tracing, wide-spread testing and vaccination campaigns, and different approaches to infection reduction and lethality.

Structural: To build back better, stronger, and more resilient health systems, strategic investments in health are required. This includes clear efforts in developing stronger and more comprehensive primary health care models, that can go beyond the first level of care and can put people at the center as the core strategy for achieving higher quality and universal health coverage. It also requires an understanding of how health system reforms can be used to promote and increase inclusiveness, ensuring no one is left behind. This may consider innovative uses of social and community health insurance schemes, as well as other supply approaches to increase effectiveness and quality of care. We also acknowledge that the architecture of any health system reform must be considered as process-based on the identification of needs and be built in a way that increases trust. We aim to identify and share national experiences of recent reforms, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, that include their goals; instruments, and implementation challenges in the policy-making process; and how political and community stakeholders interacted.

Contextual/Covid specific: The pandemic revealed the abilities of governments and communities to react to the unexpected, demonstrating how resilient they were in the emergency, and how they navigated health care system uncertainty. The challenges faced now go well beyond biomedical risks. The current situation has brought to light central demands that have been historically neglected by health systems. These include how to provide effective mental health services more broadly, and how to deal with increasing domestic violence and substance abuse. We call for national and subnational financial responses to COVID-19, and resultant innovative approaches developed, both from the policy arena as well as at the community level; in organizing services; in managing essential health care services; and in addressing responses during mobility restrictions and contagion. Particularly, we are interested in learning about the ability to facilitate access through new technologies and procedures such as digital prescriptions, virtual consultations, and cross-medical coordination. Finally, the institutional barriers that have been identified, as well as their impact on access and equity, will be central for local, national, regional, and global learning processes.

If your topic does not appear to fit in one of the sub-themes but DOES clearly fit with the overall Symposium theme, include it in the ‘Other’ category and make the case for pertinence and excellence!

Across all these themes, we welcome a range of types of sessions. The Symposium also seeks to build the field of health systems research, in addition to addressing important thematic areas. Sessions that allow examining a common set of problems, develop/ advance a body of theory and knowledge, and/or consider common practices are therefore welcome. Overall, the range of abstracts sought include the following field-building dimensions:

  • Cutting-edge conceptual, empirical, and/or synthesis research;
  • Innovative research approaches, methods and measures;
  • Successful and/or novel strategies for developing capacity;
  • Platforms and mechanisms to share and translate knowledge; and
  • Innovative practice in health systems development

Symposium core principles

Symposium organizers aim to develop a program with a set of core principles (PDF) in mind. 

Program overview

The Symposium program at a glance is available.  Approximately half of the sessions will be allocated to ‘organized sessions’ and the other half will be based on ‘individual abstracts’. Additionally, in advance of the main symposium program, there will be two days of satellite sessions and capacity strengthening sessions. Click on the links above to find out more information about these sessions and how to apply.

Symposium languages 

Abstracts in English, Spanish and French will be accepted. Posters may be produced in English, French or Spanish.

Submitting your abstract

Organized sessions

Organizers may submit proposals for 90-minute sessions under two different ‘session type’ categories:

  • Participatory sessions: These could be round table discussions, debates, ‘fishbowl’ discussions, simulations, games, pyramid sessions, group modelling, or any other approach that actively encourages audience participation.
  • Panel presentations: This format is the traditional panel presentation, but organizers must allow adequate time for audience discussion and interaction.

The organized session template requires the following information:

  • Title (maximum 25 words)
  • Session type
  • Thematic area and field-building dimension
  • The session organizer’s contact details
  • Contributors’ details: the session chair/ moderator as well as a maximum of four/five named additional contributors, who will play active roles in the session; whether lead author is from a low- or middle-income country
  • A short (50 word) overview of the organized session that will appear in the Symposium program
  • A 400-word (maximum) summary of the session content, including: purpose/objective, technical content, target audience and significance for the selected thematic area and/or field-building dimension; learning objectives
  • A 400-word (maximum) summary of the planned session process, including: short description of any presentations or inputs, the moderation or management approach of the session, the role of contributors – both those named in the abstract and any others with planned roles, and a rough breakdown as to how the 90 minutes will be used.
Evaluation criteria

In line with the core Symposium principles, the Scientific Committee will be asked to assess organized sessions on the basis of: (i) technical merit; (ii) relevance to the Symposium theme; (iii) significance for the sub-theme area and/or field-building dimension; (iv) engagement of policy-makers, managers and civil society groups (i.e. chair and those with planned roles); and (v) potential for active involvement by the audience.

Individual abstracts

Individual abstracts may be submitted as a paper, poster or multimedia presentation.

A paper is a 10 minute oral presentation with 5 minutes allowed for questions. Note: If an abstract is submitted as a paper, it may be accepted as a poster – please do not submit for both a paper and a poster for the same abstract.

A poster is a physical display that is no more than 120 cm by 80 cm in size.

A multimedia presentation could be a short film, documentary, animated film or photo-essay and should be no longer than 15 minutes in total presentation time.

Those submitting individual abstracts will be required to submit the following information:

  • Title (maximum 25 words)
  • Speaker contact details
  • Sub-theme and field-building dimension
  • For multimedia submission: link to the video/photos if available
  • List of co-authors for listing in the abstract book, if applicable
  • An abstract of 400 words or less
Abstract format

For empirical research presentations a structured abstract should be prepared, covering background, methods, results and discussion / conclusions.

For conceptual research, or work under other field-building dimensions, abstracts should cover Purpose, focus/content, significance for the sub-theme area/field-building dimension of relevance and target audience.

Individual abstracts may be accepted either for oral, multimedia or poster presentation.

*Note: oral submissions will automatically be considered for posters so there is no need to submit twice.

Evaluation criteria

In line with the core principles of the Symposium, the Scientific Committee will be asked to assess individual abstracts on the basis of: (i) technical merit; (ii) relevance to the Symposium theme; (iii) significance to the sub-theme area and field-building dimension.

Guidelines on number of presentations per person

In order to foster diversity, each person will be permitted to present a maximum of:

  • Once in an organized session (either as chair/moderator or named contributor);
  • Once in individual abstract-based sessions;

Multiple submissions that include the same-named contributor will be reviewed by the Scientific Committee, but the Program Working Group will be responsible for finalizing abstract selection so as to maximize diversity and ensure balance across the program.


The call for both organized sessions and individual abstracts will open on October 15, 2021.

The deadline for organized session proposals is February 15, 2022 (12:00 pm/noon Eastern Standard Time). Organizers will be notified whether their session has been accepted or rejected by March 14, 2022. If not accepted, this allows organizers and/or the planned contributors to submit similar content as individual abstracts.

The deadline for individual abstracts is April 15, 2022 (12:00 pm/noon Eastern Standard Time). Those who have submitted individual abstracts will be notified whether their abstract has been accepted (either for oral presentation or poster presentation) by June 15, 2022.




Call for organized sessions

October 15, 2021

February 22, 2022 

Organized session submitters notified


March 31, 2022

Call for individual abstracts

October 15, 2021

April 15, 2022 (midnight GMT)

Individual abstract submitters notified


June 15, 2022

Travel support

Organizers of the Seventh the Global Symposium hope to be able to provide travel support to some participants, in particular residents of low- or middle-income countries and full-time students (from countries of all income levels).

  • Applications for travel support will be accepted only after the results of the organized session and individual abstract review process is complete.
  • Applications will only be accepted from those who have had an individual abstract accepted (for poster and/or oral presentation) or who are named contributors within an accepted organized session that does not have external funding.
  • The number of scholarships offered per organized session will be dependent on funding availability.