Challenges in researching violence affecting health service delivery in complex security environments

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Complex security environments are characterized by violence (including, but not limited to "armed conflict" in the legal sense), poverty, environmental disasters and poor governance. Violence directly affecting health service delivery in complex security environments includes attacks on individuals (e.g. doctors, nurses, administrators, security guards, ambulance drivers and translators), obstructions (e.g. ambulances being stopped at checkpoints), discrimination (e.g. staff being pressured to treat one patient instead of another), attacks on and misappropriation of health facilities and property (e.g. vandalism, theft and ambulance theft by armed groups), and the criminalization of health workers. This paper examines the challenges associated with researching the context, scope and nature of violence directly affecting health service delivery in these environments. With a focus on data collection, it considers how these challenges affect researchers' ability to analyze the drivers of violence and impact of violence. This paper presents key findings from two research workshops organized in 2014 and 2015 which convened researchers and practitioners in the fields of health and humanitarian aid delivery and policy, and draws upon an analysis of organizational efforts to address violence affecting healthcare delivery and eleven in-depth interviews with representatives of organizations working in complex security environments. Despite the urgency and impact of violence affecting healthcare delivery, there is an overall lack of research that is of health-specific, publically accessible and comparable, as well as a lack of gender-disaggregated data, data on perpetrator motives and an assessment of the 'knock-on' effects of violence. These gaps limit analysis and, by extension, the ability of organizations operating in complex security environments to effectively manage the security of their staff and facilities and to deliver health services. Increased research collaboration among aid organizations, researchers and multilateral organizations, such as the WHO, is needed to address these challenges.


  • Ludvig Foghammar
  • Suyoun Jang
  • Gulzhan Asylbek Kyzy
  • Nerina Weiss
  • Katherine A Sullivan
  • Fawzia Gibson-Fall
  • Rachel Irwin
Externa organisationer
  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Karolinska Institute
  • Fafo Institutt for arbeidslivs- og velferdsforskning (AVF AS)
  • King's College London
  • Stockholms universitet

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Hälsovetenskaper


Sidor (från-till)219-226
TidskriftSocial Science and Medicine
StatusPublished - 2016 aug
Peer review utfördJa
Externt publiceradJa