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Health reform has been a constant feature of most health systems for a number of decades and has often focused on structural change. The lexicon of health reform and health management has also become intertwined with managers reporting that reform has become a constant and that rather than influencing that change they are in fact influenced by it and by its impact on their role, professional development and career.
There is a challenge for health service managers to return to a leadership role in enabling health reform. In doing so will this challenge us to think differently about management?
This article addresses the significant body of research into health reform and health management through the lens of language used in reporting the context and the significant impact that it has had on the management role. It describes what directions that role might take, the qualities required in selecting capable managers and questions the current status quo in the education, training and development of this significant sector of the health system workforce.
It concludes by proposing a way forward that acknowledges that contemporary health reform is shifting the paradigm of healthcare delivery in a way that requires the dominant view of health management to be challenged. This might be achieved by the use of a critical lens on the language of management, a focus on a grounded approach about what managers need to do and an acceptance of variability in that role in adaptive complex contexts.
Abbreviations: DNOP – Distributed Networks of Practice; MDG – Millennium Development Goals; PHC – Primary Healthcare; PHN – Primary Health Network; SDG – Sustainable Development Goals; SEDOH – Social Economic Determinants of Health; SHAPE – Society for Health Administration Programs in Education.