The right and responsibility of communities to participate in health service delivery was enshrined in the 1978 Alma Ata declaration and continues to feature centrally in health systems debates today. Communities are a vital part of people-centred health systems and their engagement is critical to realizing the diverse health targets prioritised by the Sustainable Development Goals and the commitments made to Universal Health Coverage.
Community members’ intimate knowledge of local needs and adaptive capacities are essential in constructively harnessing global transformations related to epidemiological and demographic transitions, urbanization, migration, technological innovation and climate change.
Effective community partnerships and governance processes that underpin community capability also strengthen local resilience, enabling communities to better manage shocks, sustain gains, and advocate for their needs through linkages to authorities and services. This is particularly important given how power relations mark broader contexts of resource scarcity and concentration, struggles related to social liberties and other types of ongoing conflicts.