Over the past decade, discussion of integrated care has become more widespread and prominent in both high- and low-income health care systems (LMICs). The trend reflects the mismatch between an increasing burden of chronic disease and local health care systems which are still largely focused on hospital-based treatment of individual clinical episodes and also the long-standing proliferation of vertical donor-funded disease-specific programmes in LMICs which have disrupted horizontal, or integrated, care. Integration is a challenging concept to define, in part because of its multiple dimensions and varied scope: from integrated clinical care for individual patients to broader systems integration-or linkage-involving a wide range of interconnected services (e.g. social services and health care). In this commentary, we compare integrated care in high- and lower-income countries. Although contexts may differ significantly between these settings, there are many common features of how integration has been understood and common challenges in its implementation. We discuss the different approaches to, scope of, and impacts of, integration including barriers and facilitators to the processes of implementation. With the burden of disease becoming more alike across settings, we consider what gains there could be from comparative learning between these settings which have constituted two separate strands of research until now.
Keywords: Health systems; integration.
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press in association with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.