This paper draws lessons from the Ebola Virus Disease epidemic to suggest how health systems research can be strengthened to assist better with preparedness for and mitigation of future public health emergencies. The epidemic killed more than 11 000 people in West Africa between February 2014 and January 2016. The causes of the epidemic and the response to the outbreak harbour many lessons concerning how health systems were overwhelmed and need to be re-designed in order to cope with future public health emergencies and limit their escalation. From these lessons, it is possible to identify the most significant systemic issues that must be addressed to ensure health systems can exhibit greater resilience in the face of similar events in the future. The paper goes on to consider the current capacity of health systems research (HSR) to assist with the management of these issues and to suggest that critical systems thinking and practice could empower health systems researchers and practitioners in a manner that would give them much greater potency. The research has additional importance now that Covid-19 has demonstrated that pandemics are not ‘black swan’ events.
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