© 2013

Handbook of Systems and Complexity in Health

  • Joachim P. Sturmberg
  • Carmel M. Martin


  • Written by international experts from health services research, primary care, management studies, systems science, and organizational behavior

  • Applies systems science theory to population health and health care systems, with implications for health policy reform


Table of contents

  1. Concepts of Health

    1. Joachim P. Sturmberg, Stefan Topolski, Stephen Lewis
      Pages 251-253
  2. Clinical Applications

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 255-255
    2. John G. Scott
      Pages 257-277
    3. Jeanette M. Bennett, Brandon L. Gillie, Monica E. Lindgren, Christopher P. Fagundes, Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser
      Pages 279-299
    4. Rajkumar Kamatchi, Matthew R. Broome
      Pages 317-333
    5. Carrington R. Wendell, Leslie I. Katzel, Shari R. Waldstein
      Pages 379-396
    6. Cary A. Brown
      Pages 397-421
    7. Carmel M. Martin, Carl Vogel, Lucy Hederman, Kevin Smith, Atieh Zarabzadeh, Deirdre Grady et al.
      Pages 445-465
    8. Christophe L. Herry, Geoffrey C. Green, Andrea Bravi, Andrew J. E. Seely
      Pages 467-481
  3. Health Services

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 483-483
    2. Liam Peyton, Alain Mouttham, Khaled A. Ali, Aladdin Baarah, Hussein T. Mouftah
      Pages 495-519
    3. Brian Castellani, Corey Schimpf, Frederic Hafferty
      Pages 521-535
    4. Pierpaolo Cavallo, Sergio Pagano, Luna Carpinelli
      Pages 537-562

About this book


Systems and complexity theory plays critical roles in such varied fields as computer science, the physical sciences, meteorology, and economics--and yet health care has yet to take full advantage of what it has to offer. What the theory offers is on rich display as the Handbook of Systems and Complexity in Health presents a revolutionary approach to reforming basic practice and large-scale care delivery, based on the concept of health care as a complex, self-organized, and self-interactive system.


The book's opening section provides readers with a thorough grounding in systems and complexity theory from scientific, historical, epistemological, and technical perspectives, complete with the principles and mathematics behind it. From there, contributors offer models of innovation and improvement in service delivery, disease prevention and health promotion, cost-effectiveness, communication, quality control--in short, a more efficient and equitable future for health care. And one particularly intriguing chapter suggests opportunities for complexity theory in refining the drug prescription process. A sampling of the coverage:


  • Understanding health and illness from a complexity perspective.
  • A methodology for analyzing medical data.
  • Modeling illness and recovery with nonlinear dynamics.
  • Clinical applications: inflammation, diabetes, panic disorder, pain, domestic violence, cardiovascular disorders, and the art of the consultation.
  • Complexity science at the bedside: continuous multiorgan variability monitoring in critically ill patients.
  • Primary care as a complex adaptive system.


Researchers in health services research, health policy, and health administration will find in the Handbook of Systems and Complexity in Health a new way of viewing health and illness, and potentially a new way to organize health care delivery.


Complex adaptive systems Health services research Nonlinear dynamics System dynamics Systems and complexity in health

Editors and affiliations

  • Joachim P. Sturmberg
    • 1
  • Carmel M. Martin
    • 2
  1. 1., Department of General PracticeMonash UniversityWamberalAustralia
  2. 2.Northern Ontario School of MedicineChicagoUSA

About the editors

Joachim P Sturmberg MBBS, DORACOG, MFM, PhD, FRACGP I am Adjunct A/Prof of Monash University, Melbourne, and Conjoint A/Prof of General Practice in the Department of General Practice in the Department of General Practice, General Practice, The Newcastle University, Newcastle, Australia. I am a graduate from Lübeck Medical School, Germany, where I also completed my PhD. Since 1989 I work in an urban group practice on the NSW Central Coast, with a particular interest in the ongoing patient-centred care of patients with chronic disease and the elderly. In 1994 I started to pursue systems and complexity research with an inquiry into the effects of continuity of care on the care processes and outcomes. Since then my research has expanded and includes the areas of understanding the complex notion of health, health care and healthcare reform, showing that health is an interconnected multi-dimensional construct encompassing somatic, psychological, social and semiotic or sense-making domains, that health care has to embrace the patient’s understanding of her health as the basis for effective and efficient care, and that an effective and efficient healthcare system ought to put the patient at the centre. I am joint chief editor of the Forum on Systems and Complexity in Medicine and Healthcare in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. Together with Carmel Martin and Jim Price I chair the Complexity SIG in WONCA.

Carmel C Martin MBBS, MSc, PhD, MRCGP, FRACGP, FAFPHM I am Visiting Academic Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Trinity College, Dublin, and an Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. I am active in clinical general practice with a particular interest in chronic disease and illness and patient centered care and integrated care using information technology, informed by complex adaptive systems theories. I am an Australian medical graduate from the University of Queensland. I completed my Masters in Community Medicine at the London School of Hygiene, University of London and my PhD at the Australian National University. My research in Australia, Canada and Ireland has focused on reforms related to primary health care and chronic care, the nature of health in body, mind, society and the environment and meaning and sensemaking about personal health. My PhD. on the care of chronic illness in general practice, explored the nature of the experience of illness and care associated with multi-morbidity from the perspectives of those afflicted and their general practitioner/primary care physician as the key ‘users’ of care. This PhD led to a wide range of systems based interventions, underpinned by complex adaptive systems theory and social constructionist perspectives in Australia, Canada and Ireland. I am joint chief editor of the Forum on Systems and Complexity in Medicine and Healthcare in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Handbook of Systems and Complexity in Health
  • Editors Joachim P Sturmberg
    Carmel Martin
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013
  • Publisher Name Springer, New York, NY
  • eBook Packages Medicine Medicine (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-4614-4997-3
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-4939-2255-0
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-4614-4998-0
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XXI, 954
  • Number of Illustrations 103 b/w illustrations, 165 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Health Administration
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


From the book reviews:

“The book has appeal for health professionals including practitioners, educators, researchers, policy makers, and health administrators, as well as graduate students. … It acknowledges a new role for educators -- to shake up ideas and to introduce students to networks, connections, and the contexts in which health occurs -- to instill a passion for lifelong learning. These features set this book apart and make it a welcome addition to the healthcare policy literature.” (Carole Ann Kenner, Doody’s Book Reviews, January, 2015)