Community health systems

Health Partners International’s expertise in strengthening community health systems is in building sustainable local capacity for effective partnership. We link communities and the formal health system as a key element of an integrated health systems strengthening approach.

We developed the highly effective Social Approval Community Engagement Approach (SACE) which has successfully mobilised rural communities in support of health improvements and created an enabling environment for women and girls’ empowerment, including amongst marginalised and hard to reach groups. The approach is designed to be implemented at scale. It has been adapted for use in fragile and post-conflict settings. It has been implemented in northern Nigeria and is currently being scaled up in Zambia.

Core areas of expertise in the area of community health systems strengthening include:

  • Designing comprehensive, integrated strategies to increase communities’ access to essential health services in contexts of low demand.
  • Developing voice and accountability initiatives to make health services more equitable and accountable to communities.
  • Strengthening the referral system between communities and lower level health facilities via emergency transport schemes.
  • Improving the evidence-base on effective ways to intervene on the demand-side through applied research.
  • Supporting health programmes to integrate a gender empowerment perspective.
  • Mainstreaming a focus on gender-based violence into maternal and other health programmes.
  • Developing practical and context-relevant resources, tools, methodologies and guidelines to support community health systems strengthening.
  • Building government capacity to plan and budget for the demand-side of health.
  • Strengthening front-line health workers’ understanding of and capacity to support social inclusion.

We are committed to addressing challenging underlying social issues that have a bearing on health, such as gender-based violence, female genital mutilation/cutting and lack of social support. Working within a social determinants framework, we are advocates for broadening the concept of primary health care to include a focus on social issues.