Department of Political Science

Viola Burau

Health system resilience and health workforce capacities: Comparing health system responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in six European countries

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Viola Burau
  • Michelle Falkenbach, Cornell Tech, Cornell University
  • ,
  • Stefano Neri, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
  • ,
  • Stephen Peckham, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent
  • ,
  • Iris Wallenburg, Erasmus MC, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus University Medical Center, Univ Med Ctr Rotterdam, Dept Neurol
  • ,
  • Ellen Kuhlmann, Georg-August-University

BACKGROUND: The health workforce is a key component of any health system and the present crisis offers a unique opportunity to better understand its specific contribution to health system resilience. The literature acknowledges the importance of the health workforce, but there is little systematic knowledge about how the health workforce matters across different countries.

AIMS: We aim to analyse the adaptive, absorptive and transformative capacities of the health workforce during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe (January-May/June 2020), and to assess how health systems prerequisites influence these capacities.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We selected countries according to different types of health systems and pandemic burdens. The analysis is based on short, descriptive country case studies, using written secondary and primary sources and expert information.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Our analysis shows that in our countries, the health workforce drew on a wide range of capacities during the first wave of the pandemic. However, health systems prerequisites seemed to have little influence on the health workforce's specific combinations of capacities.

CONCLUSION: This calls for a reconceptualisation of the institutional perquisites of health system resilience to fully grasp the health workforce contribution. Here, strengthening governance emerges as key to effective health system responses to the COVID-19 crisis, as it integrates health professions as frontline workers and collective actors.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Health Planning and Management
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. The International Journal of Health Planning and Management published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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