Case Study #1 - The role of social movements in strengthening health systems:
The experience of the National Health Forum in El Salvador (2009–2018)
The National Health Forum (NHF), a nationwide popular movement in El Salvador, played a central role in the development of the National Public Health System from 2009-2018 (León et al., 2020). It is part of a global movement that aims to build coalitions and networks called the People’s Health Movement (PHM), bringing together grassroots health activists, civil society organizations, and academic institutions from around the world to address the social, environmental, and economic determinants of health (Kapilashrami et al., 2016).
The NHF provides a strong example of community participation and exemplifies a social movement with fully achieved goals. Formally created in 2010, the NHF had three fundamental goals that were met via social movement actions:
- To build people’s power and strengthen the organizational fabric.
- To stand against the idea that previous governments held of privatizing healthcare.
- To stimulate and promote effective social participation in health.
The NHF developed three community participation strategies that played a role in strengthening the National Public Health System. These strategies are (1) capacity building among local community leaders to be effective decision-makers at levels of the health-care system; (2) response and prioritization of needs as identified by the community for the sector-specific working groups; and (3) advocacy for human rights-based policies.
“The NHF was born with high participation of different social movements, all united in the same direction. There were a series of problems, as they wanted to privatize health care […] The NHF was created when the health reform came into being. We, the NHF, are part of the reform” - NHF Member
Case study #2 - Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association (Alzheimer's Association | Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia Help) was founded in 1980 by a group of family care providers and individuals who supported the need for an organization dedicated to support the needs of caregivers facing Alzheimer’s and to advance knowledge through research. As early activists for the Alzheimer’s movement, they sought to break down the silence of Alzheimer’s and learn more about the disease, including prevention, treatment and a cure.
Through a people-led approach, the Alzheimer’s Association is today the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. The association reaches millions of people globally with a multi-prong approach to engage in individual and collective action including participating in awareness campaigns, engaging in a grassroots campaign to impact legislation advocating for any person living with Alzheimer’s to have the support services needed.
With multiple chapters throughout North America and globally, the Alzheimer’s Association includes a network of advocates and allies. These include other Alzheimer’s organizations, universities engaged in research, corporations and pharmaceuticals. As an example of a civil society organization, the Alzheimer’s Association is a community-based non-profit that has protected and advocated for the needs and interests of persons and families living with Alzheimer’s for over 40 years.
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