Lessons from community participation in primary health care and water resource governance in South Africa: A narrative review
van der Merwe, Maria
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Hove, J., D'Ambruoso, L., Kahn, K., Witter, S., van der Merwe, M., Mabetha, D., Tembo, K. and Twine, R. (2022) 'Lessons from community participation in primary health care and water resource governance in South Africa: A narrative review', Global Health Action, 15(1), article no. 2004730.
Background In South Africa, community participation has been embraced through the development of progressive policies to address past inequities. However, limited information is available to understand community involvement in priority setting, planning and decision-making in the development and implementation of public services.Objective This narrative review aims to provide evidence on forms, extents, contexts and dynamics of community participation in primary health care (PHC) and water governance in South Africa and draw cross-cutting lessons. This paper focuses on health and water governance structures, such as health committees, Catchment Management Agencies (CMA), Water User Associations (WUAs), Irrigation Boards (IBs) and Community Management Forums (CMFs).Methods Articles were sourced from Medline (Ovid), EMBASE, Google Scholar, Web of Science, WHO Global Health Library, Global Health and Science Citation Index between 1994 and 2020 reporting on community participation in health and water governance in South Africa. Databases were searched using key terms to identify relevant research articles and grey literature. Twenty-one articles were included and analysed thematically.Results There is limited evidence on how health committees are functioning in all provinces in South Africa. Existing evidence shows that health committees are not functioning effectively due to lack of clarity on roles, autonomy, power, support, and capacity. There was slow progress in establishment of water governance structures, although these are autonomous and have mechanisms for democratic control, unlike health committees. Participation in CMAs/WUAs/IBs/CMFs is also not effective due to manipulation of spaces by elites, lack of capacity of previously disadvantaged individuals, inadequate incentives, and low commitment to the process by stakeholders.Conclusion Power and authority in decision-making, resources and accountability are key for effective community participation of marginalized people. Practical guidance is urgently required on how mandated participatory governance structures can be sustained and linked to wider governance systems to improve service delivery.