Transforming Policy into Justice: The Role of Health Advocates in Mozambique

Despite expanding policy commitments in many poor countries, health care is often a failure at the point of delivery. Lack of information, poor enforcement, and power dynamics prevent those whose rights have been violated from pursuing redress. In Mozambique, grassroots health advocates work to address this gap between policy and reality by blending approaches known as legal empowerment and social accountability. They raise awareness of health policy, support clients to seek redress for grievances, and facilitate problem-solving dialogues between communities and health facility staff. In three years we have seen communities begin to overcome a culture of silence. Twenty-one advocates and their clients have achieved redress to over a thousand grievances across 27 health facilities. These cases have resulted in improvements to access, infrastructure, and provider performance. Aggregate data from cases handled by health advocates provides unique insight into how health policy is working in practice. We draw on that information to advocate for systemic changes that affect the entire country, like better policies for combatting bribery and stronger procedures for responding to grievances. This article shares the learnings and findings from our preliminary experience with the health advocate approach.   Source: Health and Human Rights Journal, Volume 18, Issue 2, December 2016