Member Spotlight: Community Working Group on Health (CWGH)
The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) was born in early 1998, to lead and give visibility to community processes in health in Zimbabwe. Over the years, the CWGH has positioned itself as a voice in the health sector and built community power, organizing involvement of communities in health actions within their communities and around Primary Health Care, whether within the community on health governance, health literacy, health budget, health rights or mobilizing resources to support health centres. These are being done through community level initiatives with limited external support. The CWGH has consistently engaged with stakeholders and government to make Primary Health Care (PHC) a more central policy principle, and has strengthened communities such as health centre committees and boards and committees at district and national level to organize public efforts to achieve PHC.
The majority of Zimbabweans generally use public sector clinics as the primary source of health care, making it important for public and social accountability in the health delivery system. CWGH initiated a programme of work that enhances information and networking on health issues at the local level in 35 districts under its Health Literacy Programme. We initiated district level meetings between health care providers and civic and constituent organisations in the area to promote and exchange dialogue at local level on promotion, prevention and management of health problems, and to strengthen informed participation in local health planning, set up local CWGH Health Forums, carried out health literacy and advocated for PHC policies backed by research, the CWGH observed that government was allocating inadequate human, financial, drug and other resources to health centre and preventive levels of the health system.
In 2001, the CWGH initiated a process of setting up or revitalizing Health Centre Committees (HCCs) to strengthen the capacities to demand resources for these levels of the health system. The CWGH activities through HCCs aimed to shift participation in health from mobilization for and compliance with centrally defined programmes to mechanisms through which communities can shape their health systems and make services more responsive to their interests. This is in harmony with the policy in Zimbabwe of decentralization, proposed to “strengthen democracy and civic responsibility” and transfer authority and functions from central and local level.