Fostering resilience through Health and Social Protection policies in times of multiple crises

The goal of this research project is to understand how societies can become more resilient, by focusing on two main sectors, health and social protection. It aims at contributing to the implementation of the new BMZ core topic strategy ”Health, Social Protection and Population policy” by providing research-based advice in particular, on topics related to the first (“health) and second (“social protection”) action fields of the strategy.

Project Lead:
Francesco Burchi
Christoph Strupat

Project Team:
Pooja Balasubramanian
Tekalign Gutu Sakketa
Srinivasa Srigiri
Saravanan Subramanian

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Time frame:
2023 - 2025 / ongoing

Project description

COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, inter- and intra-state conflicts, and their socioeconomic and fiscal consequences have shown the vulnerability of societies worldwide. Poverty and inequality have increased globally. Achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has suffered severe setbacks. In many countries, despite substantial investments over the past two years, health and social protection systems proved inadequate to cushion these various crises. Currently, around half of the world's population has no access to basic health services and social protection systems. This means that four billion people have to care about themselves in the event of illness, old age, unemployment, maternity, disability or incapacity to work. If an external shock occurs, their livelihood is often immediately threatened. In particular, climate change-induced shocks such as extreme weather and natural disasters can lead to an increasing number of injuries and deaths and can jeopardize non-resilient local health and social protection services.

Fostering resilience, thus, will be determinant for development policy in the coming years. Health and social protection are central pillars for resilient individuals, households and societies. Policies from both fields can, if implemented in a resilience-enhancing way, cushion the impact of crisis, increase resilience capacities, and ultimately help to reduce poverty and inequality. Furthermore, holistic approaches such as the One Health approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize human, animal and ecosystem health can contribute to the prevention of shocks such as infectious diseases with pandemic potential. 

The research will have a gendered focus, identifying gender-differentiated effects of norms, and gender-specific vulnerabilities on the distribution, occurrence and effects of external shocks and crises, in order to understand how to design gender resilient health and social protection policies. Thus, our research is also relevant to the BMZ initiative 'Feministische Entwicklungspolitik'.

Based on our joint research and policy-advisory activities on resilience, the respective research team members make contributions to their specific scientific communities within two work packages (WPs):

WP1: Fostering resilience through the One Health approach and Health System strengthening

The objective of this work package is to understand how to enhance resilience in times of multiple global health challenges through the One Health approach and health system strengthening. It will focus on identifying enablers and barriers towards effective governance of interlinkages among sectors relevant for the implementation of the One Health approach. Furthermore, it will study how health systems can be strengthened to improve resilience capacities of households in the face of crises such as pandemics or climate change.

This requires gaining new empirical insights into the implementation of the One Health approach and impacts of health policies. It is necessary to understand the specific role of these policies as instruments to strengthen the resilience of health systems, households and vulnerable groups to external shocks. It will be addressed by several case studies using quantitative and qualitative methods. Furthermore, one cross-country study will focus on climate-change induced weather shocks (e.g. drought, flood) that negatively affect human health to assess climate resilience of health systems including a community and household perspective.

WP2: Fostering resilience through Social Protection

The objective of this work package is to understand how best to design social protection systems that are able to enhance the resilience of households and vulnerable groups.

It aims at addressing two, inter-related research questions: (i) how effective are different social protection policies in fostering resilience to different types of shocks? (ii) how should social protection systems be designed to better cushion future shocks and prevent deeper crises?

The research will consist of a combination of case-study analysis with a broader analysis of cross-country data, literature and evidence. The case-study analysis will be often conducted with a mixed method approach. The case studies will mostly focus on two key instruments of social protection, namely cash transfers and public works, and on two types of shocks: health and climate-related shocks.



Project Coordination

Sonja Packschies