Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
On-line version ISSN 1680-5348
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
CELEDON, Carmen and NOE, Marcela. Health sector reforms and societal involvement. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2000, vol.8, n.1-2, pp.99-104. ISSN 1680-5348. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892000000700013.
This article begins by briefly reviewing different forms of citizen participation in the health system. The article then suggests the need for mechanisms for society to control each of the tasks that the health system should perform: defining overall policies, financing, insurance, service provision, and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the system. In general, in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, health sector policy formulation continues to be carried out in a centralized manner, with limited involvement by individuals and little adaptation to local realities. The reform processes in the Region are progressing in defining or improving the financing responsibility so as to better reconcile the objectives of equity, efficiency, and freedom of choice. Nevertheless, little has been done to develop instruments for citizens to control the functions of financing and insurance. Appropriate instruments are still lacking for citizens to effectively manage service providers. Among the principal obstacles to citizen participation in the health sector in the Region are: inequality in the distribution of income and other forms of power, an embryonic recognition of the rights of people when they are dealing with public services, limited information concerning those rights and the absence of mechanisms for people to truly exercise them, the weakness with which existing control mechanisms recognize social diversity and incorporate the views of minorities or of the most marginalized groups in society, and weak civic organizations.