The production of critical theories in Health Systems Research and Education. An epistemological approach to emancipating public research and education from private interests

Jean-Pierre Unger, Pierre De Paepe, Patrick Van Dessel, Alicia Stolkiner


This paper aims at offering alternative methodological perspectives in health systems research, to produce critical, theoretical knowledge in domains such as health policy and management of health care, organization of disease control, political economy of health and medical practice.We first examined the reasons to believe that worldwide economic agents have driven publicly funded schools of public health to adopt their preferred policies and to orient their priority research topics.

We then studied whether this hidden leadership has also contributed to shape research methodologies, which we contrasted with the epistemological consequences of a quest for intellectual independence, that is, the researcher’s quest to critically understand the state of health systems and generalize results of related action-research. To do so, we applied concepts of what could be named the ‘French School of Critical Sociology’ to qualitative research methodologies in descriptive health systems research. To do so, we applied concepts of what could be named the ‘French School of Critical Sociology’ to qualitative research methodologies in descriptive health systems research.


Health systems research; Qualitative research; Research methodology; Human sciences

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