Side Meetings


Towards a science and practice of systems thinking to improve health in the context of climate change, conflict and COVID-19


  • 09:00 - 12:30 HRS. (BKK)

  • Venue : Lotus Suite 2

  • Contact Person : Aku Kwamie,

  • Dr Aku Kwamie, Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research/WHO
  • Prof Goran Tomson, Karolinska Institutet

With just eight years until 2030, progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is off-track globally. With the onset of COVID-19, there has been increased awareness that systemic approaches are needed to solve new and persistent global challenges. Yet COVID-19 – and future pandemics – now exist alongside acute and protracted additional threats to countries’ abilities to steward their health systems: climate change (global and universalized effects), and conflict (localized with global trickle-down/up effects). And while the relationship between climate change and conflict is indirect, several pathways are possible but not well understood; furthermore, fragile, conflict and vulnerable settings are often least prepared to adapt to climate variability and pandemics.


There is a need to deepen the explanatory power of the interactions occurring between the various components that make up climate change, conflict and COVID-19/pandemic systems. Systems theory, applied to guide practical action, can do this. To date, there have been limited attempts to introduce systems thinking approaches to each of climate change, conflict and COVID-19; however, these three threats have yet to be viewed as overlapping systems that influence the emergence of health.


This interactive session will present a framework, using systems thinking, to address the multiple crises of climate change, conflict and COVID-19 (and future pandemics). Speakers will present preliminary findings of a mixed-methods study, applying systems thinking to the three interconnected systems at global and country level, using Burkina Faso as a case. Key questions that participants will engage with during the session are: (1) how does systems thinking help understandings of causal interactions across these three systems to influence health as an emergent; (2) what are the implications for further research (i.e., science) and policy action (i.e., practice); and (3) how might these implications differ at global and local levels? Participants will be provided with a technical brief and other relevant materials.