People at the centre of complex adaptive health systems reform

Joachim P. Sturmberg, Diana M. O'Halloran, Carmel M. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


• Health systems are increasingly recognised to be complex adaptive systems (CASs), functionally characterised by their continuing and dynamic adaptation in response to core system drivers, or attractors. • The core driver for our health system (and for the health reform strategies intended to achieve it) should clearly be the improvement of people's health - the personal experience of health, regardless of organic abnormalities; we contend that a patient-centred health system requires flexible localised decision making and resource use. • The prevailing trend is to use disease protocols, financial management strategies and centralised control of siloed programs to manage our health system. This strategy is suggested to be fatally flawed, as: ▶ people's health and health experience as core system drivers are inevitably pre-empted by centralised and standardised strategies; ▶ the context specificity of personal experience and the capacity of local systems are overlooked; and ▶ in line with CAS patterns and characteristics, these strategies will lead to "unintended" consequences on all parts of the system. • In Australia, there is still the time and opportunity for health system redesign that truly places people and their health at the core of the system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474-478
Number of pages5
JournalThe Medical Journal of Australia
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2010

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