The Role of Civil Society in Influencing Public Health Policy for Indigenous Women in Mexico

Inequities in accessing health care and related services in Mexico are markedly higher among indigenous peoples, especially women and other vulnerable groups.

Access to health care is a basic right guaranteed by the Mexican constitution. However, the decentralization of responsibility for health from the federal to the state level has resulted in a misalignment between power and responsibility on the one hand, and transparency and accountability on the other. As a result, some areas of Mexico - notably the southern states with large indigenous populations - have experienced disproportionately higher health inequities. Maternal mortality rates, for example, are nearly three times higher than the national average in parts of the country with large indigenous populations.

Addressing these inequities requires strategies for influencing public health policy and garnering political will. Reclaiming transparency and accountability at different levels of government will be central to this process. Civil society organizations (CSOs) can play an important role in helping indigenous women and other vulnerable groups articulate and demand better health services. However, those states with the highest inequities are also among those with the most under-developed civil society.

This research project will examine the role Mexican CSOs play in influencing more equitable public health policies and processes to improve indigenous women's health. Working with researchers, advocacy groups, and different levels of government, it will generate evidence on the nature and extent of CSO involvement and interaction with other stakeholders. The project will develop a theoretical framework for examining CSO strategies, coalitions, tools, and advocacy practices and will support research that analyzes how they can better influence public health policy in Mexico. Workshops and seminars will encourage dialogue and debate, and communicate the findings widely.

The project will generate original research and a shared theoretical framework that can be applied to further study. Peer-reviewed publications, policy briefs, and audio-visual products will communicate findings to different audiences. The research will also raise awareness of the benefits of civil society participation and produce sound evidence that can help build strategic coalitions and influence policy.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

End Date

Friday, August 21, 2015


36 months

IDRC Officer

Sinha, Chaitali

Total funding

CA$ 391,650


Mexico, North and Central America, South America, West Indies


Maternal and Child Health

Project Leader

Laura Frey

Project Leader

Marian Olvera


Alternativas y Capacidades, Asociación Civil

Institution Country


Institution Website