Anna Palagyi: International Women's Day 2019 Profile

Anna Palagyi is a health systems scientist specialising in strengthening the health systems of low- and middle-income countries, particularly across the Asia-Pacific region. With over 15 years’ experience, Anna joined The George Institute for Global Health six years ago to continue her work on improving population health.

Anna’s work focuses on identifying aspects of a health system that present barriers to providing accessible, affordable, equitable and quality primary health care services, and determining innovative strategies to remove these barriers in order to improve population health.

She was initially drawn to the sector as a development worker in the Asia-Pacific region, assessing eye health services in low-resource countries from a policy and advocacy angle.

“This work clarified the importance of ensuring local systems’ perspectives in designing and delivering health services.”

“While we can strive to develop new technologies to improve health care access and quality, or improve the way health services are paid for to ensure that no one is left behind, ultimately it is people who drive the performance of a health system, and communities who provide the glue that binds the system together.”

Anna’s future research agenda wish list focuses on the needs of the elderly in Pacific Island countries, where she says evidence is lacking to generate enough political will in this area.

“In the coming years, I really want to see an increased emphasis on research that produces the evidence that Pacific Island governments need to be able to appropriately and sustainably respond to the ageing epidemic.”

Anna believes more women are needed in health research, as they contribute valuable insights to a sector that thrives on a diversity of perspectives and experience.

“I think that the area of health systems research inherently attracts strong, inspiring, altruistic women who genuinely want to improve health and who aren’t scared of the challenges presented by the complex health systems of resource-poor settings.”

“To women thinking about pursuing career in this sector, I say: ‘Welcome – you are needed!’”

For Anna, this year’s International Women’s Day theme, #Balanceforbetter, means taking a holistic view of the priorities in her life.

“Balance to me is all about ensuring that work, life and relationships with friends and loved ones are approached with equal intensity. When one of these aspects begins to suffer, it is a pretty good sign that it’s time to recalibrate.”

“In my career, balance is also about not losing sight of the big picture. While as academics we can get caught up in metrics, to me the real sign of success is seeing first-hand that I have made a positive contribution to strengthening health systems in the settings where I work.”

Read more from Anna on Twitter at @annabana00