Health systems

About health systems

What is a health system?

A health system consists of all the organizations, institutions, resources and people whose primary purpose is to improve health. Strengthening health systems means addressing key constraints related to health worker staffing, infrastructure, health commodities (such as equipment and medicines), logistics, tracking progress and effective financing.

It is the sum total of all the organizations, institutions and resources whose primary purpose is to improve health.

A health system needs staff, funds, information, supplies, transport, communications and overall guidance and direction. And it needs to provide services that are responsive and financially fair, while treating people decently.

The poor state of health systems in many parts of the developing world is one of the greatest barriers to increasing access to essential health care. However, problems with health systems are not confined to poor countries. Some rich countries have large populations without access to care because of inequitable arrangements for social protection. Others are struggling with escalating costs because of inefficient use of resources.

Overall there is a growing recognition that to maintain and improve the health of the world’s people governments must shape sound, efficient health systems that provide effective disease prevention and treatment to all women, men and children, no matter who they are or where they live. WHO is committed to assisting its member states with that task.

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