News Release

World leaders unite to embed social participation in health systems

Landmark WHO resolution marks an important step towards a healthy world

Reports and Proceedings

BMJ Group

For the first time in the World Health Organization’s 76 year history, world leaders have unanimously committed to put social participation - people, communities and civil society - at the heart of health decision making processes.

This landmark pledge marks an important step forward in creating a healthy world, say experts in The BMJ today, and they urge everyone to seize their right to influence the decisions that affect their health and well-being.

Global challenges such as access to care, climate change, widening social inequalities, demographic changes, and staff shortages are overwhelming our health systems, they explain. Yet if the public are empowered to fully partner in health, the resources, intelligence, and capacities of our health systems will exponentially increase.

The WHO resolution marks an important step forward, in three ways.

Firstly, it outlines clear government responsibilities to ensure that social participation is adequately funded and designed in a way that influences health related policies and system change.

Secondly, the resolution makes social participation a core function within health systems, rather than a set of ad hoc initiatives. This global perspective is important to reshape health systems, nurture trustful and long term relationships with communities, and build alliances across health sectors.

Thirdly, it offers powerful mechanisms to influence governments. Because they endorsed the resolution, governments have a political imperative to act and must show progress every two years to 2030.

Personal experience and knowledge, especially that of people who struggle the most to access health, is pivotal in helping us design better and more inclusive health systems, they write. To ensure the resolution has traction, we need strong, visible, and shared leadership from civil society and governments, they add.

Finally, they say health issues transcend national borders, and all countries must participate to achieve a healthy world. 

“We need to share success stories, challenges, and solutions; learn from people across the globe; gain understanding from our diversities; build coalitions; and nurture the next generation of leaders to have the passion and expertise to ensure that no one is left behind.”

They conclude: “The social participation movement is global, but the power to act is rooted locally in the alliances we forge with each other.” 

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