Building on previous work done under EQUINET on Health Centre Committees, this project seeks to consolidate Health Centre Committees (HCC’s) as vehicles for social participation in health systems in East and Southern Africa (ESA). An EQUINET meeting in February 2014 brought together people working with HCCs in ESA countries to exchange experiences and information on the laws, roles, capacities, training and monitoring systems that are being applied to HCCs in the ESA region. The meeting gathered 20 delegates representing seven countries from the region, all involved in training and strengthening HCCs. Out of this work, emerged a realisation that an informed community strengthens HCCs in bringing community voice on needs and priorities into the decision making for and functioning of health services.

HCCs bring social knowledge, experience, views on health problems and solutions within communities to jointly design and implement the plans and budgets for the health system at primary care and community levels. Effective implementation of roles related to joint design and planning, dialogue and consultation, social mobilisation, guiding partnerships and providing oversight has been documented to show a positive impact on advancing the right to health, to improve the performance of PHC systems, the satisfaction and retention of health personnel at primary care level and the satisfaction of communities with their services.

This project emerged from the recommendations resulting from these discussions. It aims to develop a network of practitioners working with HCCs to document, share and make their work more visible; advocate for policy and legal recognition of HCCs, identify and strengthen the diverse range of capacity needs of the committees, communities and the health system, exchange information materials and case studies, and build capacity for tracking, monitoring and evaluation. UCT undertook to lead the programme addressing capacity building materials for this project which will continue to 2018, and materials can be viewed here.