How complexity science can inform scale-up and spread in health care: Understanding the role of self-organization in variation across local contexts

Holly Jordan Lanham, Luci K. Leykum, Barbara S. Taylor, C. Joseph McCannon, Curt Lindberg, Richard T. Lester

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

74 Scopus citations

Abstract

Health care systems struggle to scale-up and spread effective practices across diverse settings. Failures in scale-up and spread (SUS) are often attributed to a lack of consideration for variation in local contexts among different health care delivery settings. We argue that SUS occurs within complex systems and that self-organization plays an important role in the success, or failure, of SUS. Self-organization is a process whereby local interactions give rise to patterns of organizing. These patterns may be stable or unstable, and they evolve over time. Self-organization is a major contributor to local variations across health care delivery settings. Thus, better understanding of self-organization in the context of SUS is needed. We re-examine two cases of successful SUS: 1) the application of a mobile phone short message service intervention to improve adherence to medications during HIV treatment scale up in resource-limited settings, and 2) MRSA prevention in hospital inpatient settings in the United States. Based on insights from these cases, we discuss the role of interdependencies and sensemaking in leveraging self-organization in SUS initiatives. We argue that self-organization, while not completely controllable, can be influenced, and that improving interdependencies and sensemaking among SUS stakeholders is a strategy for facilitating self-organization processes that increase the probability of spreading effective practices across diverse settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-202
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume93
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013

Keywords

  • Complexity science
  • HIV
  • Implementation science
  • Interdependencies
  • MRSA
  • Scale-up and spread
  • Self-organization
  • Sensemaking
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'How complexity science can inform scale-up and spread in health care: Understanding the role of self-organization in variation across local contexts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this