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Our Approach to Health Systems

"Health systems" is a broad term with numerous definitions. Some are abstract and broad. For instance, the World Health Organization defines health systems as “all the activities whose primary purpose is to promote, restore or maintain health”. Other definitions are concrete and narrow. For example, the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality uses structural elements (e.g., presence of a hospital, contractual relationships) to define health systems as organizations deliver health care services. Some equate health systems with health care provider organizations, others with the work of delivering care.

Health systems can be defined in multiple ways by different groups to refer to different things.


We approach health systems from a perspective of applied scholarship aligned with the Department's mission, seeking to support people and groups work to design, evaluate, implement, and disseminate innovations in systems of care.


As a result, we draw inspiration from  health services research and health systems science, which emphasize the study of how ways of financing and organizing care can affect access, care delivery, and outcomes. 

Our approach acknowledges that health systems work can be done for complementary yet distinct goals: to produce generalizable insight and change (e.g., research to assess national care delivery policy or implement scalable interventions) and to produce more immediately actionable insight and change (e.g., initiatives to drive or evaluate local delivery system changes).


The latter represents opportunities for delivery system innovation at the intersection between research and health care operations -- one in which science is used to address real-word delivery system issues with a learning health systems orientation in order to integrate local experience and external evidence, and put knowledge into practice. Learn more about a learning health systems orientation and collaboration principles we apply to delivery system innovation.




The Collective seeks to foster both research and delivery system innovation by supporting design and evaluation, dissemination, and proposals. Learn more about how we provide support

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