Regional consultation confirms the importance of social participation in health

4 Aug 2022
Social participation
4 Aug 2022

Representatives from Ministry of Health across the Region of the Americas came together to discuss the importance of social participation in health and to share their experience on this topic. 

Washington, D.C., 4 August 2022 (PAHO/WHO)- Forty-four representatives from 19 countries met to review and provide their input to the technical background document on social participation in health, in a meeting organized by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). During the discussion, countries shared their experiences, lessons learnt and challenges on the topic and confirmed strong support for this agenda in the Americas.
During the meeting, the discussion was mainly centered around a review of the technical background document on social participation as a first step to bringing together the main challenges, needs, and interests that need to be reflected in the possible resolution for the World Health Assembly (WHA). Some of the topics mentioned by the countries included the importance of a legal framework to underpin social participation mechanisms as well as the importance of not reducing social participation to specific actions about health promotion but looking at social participation in the design of public health policies as well in addressing social determinants of health.
James Fitzgerald, Director of the Health Systems and Services Department at PAHO/WHO, stated  “social participation has been front and center in many of our discussions on strengthening health systems. And so, is time for us to bring all of these mandates together and  look specifically at this issue and see how we can translate the overarching messages and objectives  we want to see in this area into concrete action at the local level.”
On the other hand, Walter Flores, director of the Centro de Estudios para la Equidad y Gobernanza en los Sistemas de Salud (Research Centre for Equity and Health System Governance), emphasized that the Americas have been recognized at the global level as an innovation center on social participation, investing in the dialogue between the citizens and the state to advance in strengthening public health policies and services. Flores also highlighted the importance of strengthening social participation processes and sharing the region’s experiences  with the rest of the world. 
During the meeting, Ernesto Báscolo, Regional Advisor on Health Governance, Leadership, Policy and Planning, confirmed that “in the highest-level mandates in the region, as well as in the most important resolutions in the area of health system strengthening, there is ample evidence of the commitment of Member States to strengthening social participation.” This commitment, however, has not always been put into practice. At the same time, he underlined the necessity to make a more significant  effort to put these commitments into practice. 
In response to numerous global commitments and resolutions about the importance of social participation in health, the WHO has published a Handbook on social participation (in English), which guides policy-makers on  organizing, maintaining, and sustaining these participatory spaces in health. With the support of selected Member States, WHO is currently consulting all countries on their priorities and challenges concerning social participation in health, with the view of supporting a possible resolution on this topic for the World Health Assembly in 2024. 
Moving forward, PAHO and WHO will organize a series of open events, webinars, and national-level and regional consultation meetings to ensure the technical background document on social participation reflects the needs, experiences, and interests of a broad range of stakeholders from the region of the Americas.