What is health systems strengthening? Why does it matter?

Right now, there is a major conversation about health happening around the world. Experts and people who are new to the discussion are all thinking about creating stronger health systems at home and around the world. Have you heard the term “health systems strengthening” come up during these conversations? 

Health systems strengthening is comprised of six ‘building blocks’ - all which represent essential functions of public health: 

Delivery of patient services 

Black woman getting a mammogram


Healthcare workers 

female doctor performing surgery


Health records and patient information

laptop computer with a surgical mask hanging off of the corner of the screen


Medicine and vaccines 

knocked over pill bottle



assorted bank notes



Professionally dressed Black woman speaking on the phone while also using her laptop


All six of these building blocks are necessary and connected to one another.

Health systems strengthening


Each block must be strong in order for the entire public health system to work properly.

Throughout history, strengthening these building blocks has been a Canadian focus in global health. These building blocks are at the forefront of global health priorities more now than ever in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If we have learned anything over recent months, it is that viruses and diseases know no borders. The best way to protect the health of Canadians is to advance the health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere, by building strong health systems around the world. Only a healthy world has a chance to fight this pandemic together.