Rapid response to crisis: Health system lessons from the active period of COVID-19

Luis Salvador-Carulla, Sebastian Rosenberg, John Mendoza, Hossein Tabatabaei-Jafari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Background: This paper outlines the need for a health systems approach and rapid response strategy for gathering information necessary for policy decisions during pandemics and similar crises. It suggests a new framework for assessing the phases of the pandemic. Method: The paper draws its information and conclusions from a rapid synthesis and translation process (RSTP) of a series of webinars and online discussions from the Pandemic-Mental Health International Network (Pan-MHIN) - policy experts from across 16 locations in Australia, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Taiwan, the UK and the USA. While the initial focus of this research was on mental health, COVID-19 has raised much broader issues and questions for health planners. Results: We identified gaps affecting the capacity to respond effectively and quickly, including in relation to system indicators, the inadequacy of the prior classification of the phases of the pandemic, the absences of a healthcare ecosystem approach, and the quick shift to digital technologies. The strengths and weaknesses of COVID-19 responses across different systems, services, sites and countries been identified and compared, including both low and high impacted areas. Conclusions: There is an urgent need for managerial epidemiology based on healthcare ecosystem research encompassing multidisciplinary teams, visualization tools and decision analytics for rapid response. Policy and healthcare context played a key role in the response to COVID-19. Its severity, the containment measures and the societal response varied greatly across sites and countries. Understanding this variation is vital to assess the impact of COVID-19 in specific areas such as ageing or mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-586
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Policy And Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


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