Discussions of health system resilience and emergency management often highlight the importance of coordination and partnership across government and with other stakeholders. However, both coordination and partnership have been identified as areas requiring further research. This paper identifies characteristics and enablers of effective coordination for emergency preparedness and response, drawing on experience from different countries with a range of shocks, including floods, drought, and COVID-19.


The paper synthesises evidence from a set of reports related to research, evaluation and technical assistance projects, bringing together evidence from 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Methods for the original reports included primary data collection through interviews, focus groups and workshop discussions, analysis of secondary data, and document review. Reports were synthesised using a coding framework, and quality of evidence was considered for reliability of the findings.


The reports highlighted the role played by coordination and partnership in preparedness and response, and identified four key areas that characterise and enable effective coordination. First, coordination needs to be inclusive, bringing together different government sectors and levels, and stakeholders such as development agencies, universities, the private sector, local leaders and civil society, with equitable gender representation. Second, structural aspects of coordination bodies are important, including availability of coordination structures and regular meeting fora; clear roles, mandates and sufficient authority; the value of building on existing coordination mechanisms; and ongoing functioning of coordination bodies, before and after crises. Third, organisations responsible for coordination require sufficient capacity, including staff, funding, communication infrastructure and other resources, and learning from previous emergencies. Fourth, effective coordination is supported by high-level political leadership and incentives for collaboration. Country experience also highlighted interactions between these components, and with the wider health system and governance architecture, pointing to the need to consider coordination as part of a complex adaptive system.


COVID-19 and other shocks have highlighted the importance of effective coordination and partnership across government and with other stakeholders. Using country experience, the paper identifies a set of recommendations to strengthen coordination for health system resilience and emergency management.


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Cite as

Gooding, K., Bertone, M., Loffreda, G. & Witter, S. 2022, 'How can we strengthen partnership and coordination for health system emergency preparedness and response? Findings from a synthesis of experience across countries facing shocks.', BMC Health Services Research, 22, article no: 1441. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-022-08859-6

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Last updated: 14 April 2023
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