Factoring civil society actors into health policy processes in LMICs

26 January, 2019

Dear HIFA colleagues,

'The power of civil society actors was enhanced when they joined strong epistemic networks and broader coalitions of stakeholders, were resourced, and framed issues in ways that resonated with national policies and political priorities.'

Citation, abstract and comment below.

CITATION: Factoring civil society actors into health policy processes in low- and middle-income countries: a review of research articles, 2007–16

Stephanie L Smith

Health Policy and Planning 2019

https://doi.org/10.1093/heapol/czy109 [restricted access]

ABSTRACT

Civil society actors have substantially increased their participation in global and national health policymaking processes since the 1970s. Civil society roles in shaping such significant global health milestones as the Doha Declaration on Intellectual Property Rights, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the recently adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are well documented, but knowledge of civil society actor influence on health policy processes in low- and middle-income countries remains fragmented. This study analyses 24 peer-reviewed research articles published between 2007 and 2016 to identify factors affecting civil society influence in the pre-implementation stages of the policy process. The articles reviewed span 13 health issues and more than 50 countries in four regions of the world. This body of work focuses on civil society as represented by formal groups, primarily domestic and to some extent international non-governmental organizations, but also social movements, professional associations and faith-based organizations, among others. The studies document several actor-centred and contextual factors that affect civil society actor power, commonly across stages of the policy process. Crucially, civil society actors were challenged to impact the process in countries that lacked participative norms and governing structures. When repressive conditions existed, regime changes and donors sometimes helped to open doors to participation. The power of civil society actors was enhanced when they joined strong epistemic networks and broader coalitions of stakeholders, were resourced, and framed issues in ways that resonated with national policies and political priorities. The synthesis offers guidance to practitioners on factors to consider in strategy development and points to several issues for further investigation by health policy analysis scholars, including the implications of issue (non)adoption by civil society actors and contestation dynamics among those with differing perspectives.

Comment (NPW): I am sure communities of practice such as HIFA have a potential role here, providing epistemic networks that engage all stakeholders in a process of understanding and learning from one another. We would welcome any researchers who may like to evaluate this and make suggestions for how we can maximise our impact. Please contact me if you are interested: neil@hifa.org

Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA Project on Evidence-Informed Policy and Practice

http://www.hifa.org/projects/evidence-informed-policy-and-practice

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA: www.hifa.org

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org