Taxonomy for complexity theory in the context of maternity care

Nieuwenhuijze, M, Downe, S orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2848-2550, Gottfreðsdóttir, H, Rijnders, M, duPreez, A and VazRebelo, P (2015) Taxonomy for complexity theory in the context of maternity care. Midwifery, 31 (9). pp. 834-843.

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The linear focus of ‘normal science’ is unable toadequately take account of the complex interactions that direct health care systems. There is a turn towards complexity theory as a more appropriate framework for understanding system behaviour. However, a comprehensive taxonomy for complexity theory in the context of health care is lacking.

This paper aims to build a taxonomy based on the key complexity theory components that have been used in publications on complexity theory and health care, and to explore their explanatory power for health care system behaviour, specifically for maternity care.

A search strategy was devised in PubMed and 31 papers were identified as relevant for the taxonomy.

The final taxonomy for complexity theory included and defined 11components. The use of waterbirth and the impact of the Term Breech trial showed that each of the components of our taxonomy has utility in helping to understand how these techniques became widely adopted. It is not just the components themselves that characterise a complex system but also the dynamics between them.

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