The present narrative review discusses the relevance and challenges of community participation in health for health system strengthening. Based on a definition of community participation in health as a dynamic process that gives people access and control over health resources through involvement and experience, the article summarizes information obtained from documents and debate at an international event (Seminario Internacional: Experiencias y Modelos de Participación en Salud en América Latina y el Caribe). In addition, the SciELO, PubMed and Google Scholar databases were searched using the terms “community participation”, “community engagement”, “social control” and “community health planning” to identify national or transnational review and opinion articles. Community participation in health is a current concept, acknowledged in the recommendations for health policies described in recent documents and publications. Around the world, the number of studies on the subject is growing; however, in the Americas, three countries (United States, Canada and Brazil) accounted for most of the scientific publications identified in the databases. The studies address timely questions and show consensus among investigators within each individual research group. However, the area lacks exchanges and comparative analyses that contrast different experiences transcending national borders and expanding knowledge on community participation in health. The creation of more spaces for the sharing of experiences and research is advised, as well as the establishment of professional and research networks in the field of community participation in health.
Kujawa et al.