What is Social Participation for Health?
Communities and civil society are pivotal to ensuring that health policies and services respond to community needs, leaving no one behind. To reach this goal, there is a great need for a shared vision that defines and shapes civil society and communities’ roles in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) along with the ability to carry out those roles. However, in many countries, there is a lack of effective civil society engagement to support civil society advocacy, policy, accountability, and governance processes. In some cases, spaces for participation are shrinking in worrying ways, while in others, some models and lessons appear to be emerging.
In the context of SDG Target 3.8 on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), global advocacy movements such as UHC2030 as well as institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO) have demanded that people’s voices and actions influence how governments use domestic resources to deliver quality health services for all and hold them accountable. Communities and civil society actors must participate meaningfully in the drive toward better health outcomes; momentum around this is increasing, as are tools and processes.
The need for active social participation and participatory governance to achieve UHC is embedded in the Political Declaration of the United Nations High Level Meeting on UHC, which emphasizes the need to establish participatory and transparent multi-stakeholder platforms and partnerships to provide inputs into policy development, implementation, and evaluation, including reviewing progress toward UHC (#54). The declaration also states that there should be responsible and ethical regulatory and legislative systems that promote inclusiveness of all stakeholders (#58).
The Civil Society Engagement Mechanism for UHC2030 (CSEM), the WHO, and George Institute for Global Health (TGI) have come together to marshall research in service of this broader agenda and to provide support for social participation and community action for health in and beyond the SDG context.