Epistemic Communities in Health System Strengthening: Place-Based Research in Bali

Mr I Nyoman Sutarsa1

1Medical School, The Australian National University, Australia

Like any social institution, health systems place actors and people at the centre and are shaped by power dynamics that underlie societal interactions. Recognising how individuals, groups, organisations, and networks derive their power is critical to unpack how and why power flows in particular directions as well as how it might be used to promote equity-oriented health systems. Different expressions of power interact one another to shape political priorities and policy trajectories. Drawing from a 10-months place-based research in Bali Province, this paper presents the emergence of epistemic communities, interlinked and organised networks of local NGOs and academia, as key actors in the practice of health system strengthening. The paper raises the concern that these partnerships on one hand improve local research capacity and program implementation, but on the other hand are also an effective instrument for power acquisition to deploy control over the local research agenda, health systems programming and interventions. This paper examines how political capital can be enhanced through social networks, expertise and economic resources to navigate the direction of power flows. It argues that political capital as a dimension of power exertion is visible through collective actions to influence health systems and service delivery.


Mr I Nyoman Sutarsa is a Ph.D. scholar at the ANU Medical School examining health systems strengthening interventions in Indonesia.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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