The goal of health systems strengthening (HSS) is to improve health outcomes, save lives, and make investments in health more efficient.
Health systems consist of all the institutions, resources, and people whose primary purpose is to improve health. These include hospitals, clinics, health workers, pharmacies, financing and pharmaceuticals, information and communications systems, and policies and business practices.
HSS refers to activities that improve a health system’s efficiency, quality, access, and effectiveness and lead to better health outcomes for everyone regardless of ethnicity; gender; religion; income; or any other economic, political, or social status.
Weak health systems make it difficult for people to receive proper or sufficient care, especially among those who need it most (i.e., women, children, the rural poor, the marginalized and stigmatized, and religious and ethnic minorities). These weaknesses are far more acute in fragile states and areas of conflict.
Functioning public and private health systems are essential to the success of disease-specific health initiatives and to meeting the U.S. global health goals of ending preventable child and maternal deaths, ensuring global health security, and achieving an AIDS-free generation. Strengthening health systems ensures that U.S. investments in global health are sustainable.
Strong health and community systems are key to preventing and responding to epidemics, new diseases, or unexpected events, such as the Zika epidemic in Latin America, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, or natural disasters.