Decentralization of health care – International


Public Health

Community Member

Type of grant: Public Health

Year: 2019

“When we started working on the project Deprivatization of health care: lessons for movement building, as activists for the right to health we wanted to show that the things we have seen during the Covid-19 pandemic have a lot to do with how our healthcare systems were working before that. We wanted to show that although the same healthcare systems are currently overburdened and struggling to provide care to everyone who needs it, there are ways to come out of the situation and make sure that in the years to come we have better and stronger health systems. From our point of view, this would mean that health systems after the pandemic should include more people’s participation, better and more holistic care, and a vision of health that moves away from the dominant market-oriented and commodified view that we have seen growing stronger in the past.”

1. Who they are

The three organizations Organization for Workers’ Initiative and Democratization (BRID), People’s Health Movement (PHM) Europe, and Institute for Political Ecology (IPE) have a lot of practical experience in organizing people and groups. Therefore, after sketching the project, they involved 10 more organizations that were already active in the right to health movement in different parts of Europe, but that have a different set of experiences and particular focuses. These organizations are:

  1. Viva Salud, a Belgian NGO dedicated to international and health solidarity
  2. Action Platform Health and Solidarity (PASS), Benelux
  3. European Network Against Commercialization of Health and Social Protection, a European Network bringing together trade unions and NGOs
  4. Centre for International and Intercultural health (CSI), Bologna, Italy
  5. Association for the improvement of quality of life (Karika), Karlovac, Croatia
  6. Association ESE, North Macedonia
  7. Centre for Development of Workers’ Participation, Croatia

2. What they did

Phase 1. Movement building during People’s Health Day

Organizations met during regular PHM Europe online meetings every two months, and organized additional meetings on specific activities. One was the International day of action against the commercialization of health. The day of action was preceded by an online campaign and call to action, and each year a different topic is chosen for the day. As this spring there were numerous issues regarding Covid-19 vaccines, their distribution in the world and the transparency of the contracts which the EU, that were chosen to be the focus of their activities. In the course of two workshops on 1. communications strategies for campaigns and social media (organized by Quepo) and 2. National Health Service & privatization (held by health journalist John Lister), they prepared and launched a call for the day of action, open letters to governments and institutions, as well as making the visuals for social media. The campaign & the visuals were used around over 60 local actions on April 7th: from webinars like in the case of North Macedonia and South East Europe; to small-scale actions in Bologna; to demonstrations in front of EU institutions in Brussels. Additionally, two videos have been realized: the first was circulating as part of the call to action, and the second one was made with the footage from the demonstration in front of the European Commission in Brussels.

Phase 2. In-person Meeting

The organization joined the International People’s Health University (IPHU) gathering in Barcelona, as in-person meeting. Part of the resources supported the development of materials for the IPHU: Health, Rights, Action produced a wonderful series of videos and the artist Carlotta Cataldi produced a set of 5 infographics on the intersectionality of health struggles, health models, and privatization of health care.

Phase 3. Case studies

In the third part of the project, they tackled issues related to ownership, and participation in healthcare through a set of research activities that focused on deprivatization and democratization of health care.

The initial desk research was based on the reports published by Transnational Institute and the documentation on struggles against privatization collected by PHM North America. Through research meetings and workshops, 4 case studies from Belgium, Croatia, Slovakia, and Sweden, have been chosen to be an inspiration for reforming health care in different parts of Europe.

3. Why is this relevant to the activist community?

Organizations are planning to expand their researches and campaigns by organizing an exchange with Just Treatment, another FundAction community member, on their access to medicines and reinvention of the National Health Service in the UK, as well as with campaigners from Ireland who are running a campaign for the launch of an All-Ireland National Health Service.

When it comes to advocating for deprivatization in health care and strengthening of public services in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, they have already taken part in an initiative launched by the Transnational Institute and the Society for International Development which aims to map public alternatives and opposition to commodifying trends in the region and beyond. The further step is to use their own networks to amplify the results of the case studies, and to use them as inspiration for future campaigns.