Health Systems Governance: Community Participation as a Key Strategy for Realizing the Right to Health

New research will explore the potential of community participation in Uganda and South Africa to address inequities in health and promote health governance systems that give voice to the poorest and most marginalized.

Realizing the right to health requires responsive and accountable governance of health systems. In Eastern and Southern Africa, several initiatives have promoted community participation in health systems and public policy-making as central to this challenge. For instance, in South Africa, a country that recognizes the right to health in its constitution, local health committees were set up to promote community participation in decision-making. In Uganda, village health teams and parish development committees were created as part of decentralizing health systems. However, despite these efforts, meaningful participation by communities has not been achieved. Community actors have limited capacity to access and use information for decision-making, lack a proper orientation to rights-based strategies, and don't fully understand the role they can play in governing health systems.

This research project aims to develop models of good practice for community participation in Uganda and South Africa that can strengthen the governance of health systems and advance health equity. It will do this by building the capacity of communities in Uganda and South Africa using existing community participation structures. Research will assess the effectiveness of these structures in fulfilling their roles, particularly those related to processing patient complaints. It will link them with other civil society organizations to build a broader base of support. The project will also develop ways to engage with policymakers and health officials to lobby for effective policies that support the empowerment of health committees.

The project will produce training, advocacy, and lobbying materials for community organizations, as well as teaching materials to strengthen public health curriculum. It will also produce a series of evaluation reports assessing the piloted models and their activities and disseminate good practices within the region. Overall, the project is expected to foster more participatory governance of health systems and strong local, national, and regional networking on the right to health.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

End Date

Thursday, May 21, 2015


36 months

IDRC Officer

Godt, Sue

Total funding

CA$ 390,200


Uganda, South Africa, South of Sahara


Maternal and Child Health

Project Leader

Moses Mulumba


Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) Limited by Guarantee

Institution Country


Project Leader

Dr. Leslie London

Project Leader

Colvin, Chris


University of Cape Town

Institution Country

South Africa

Institution Website