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To describe community representation in Nepal’s Health Facility Operation and Management Committees (HFMCs) and the degree of influence of community representatives in the HFMC decision-making processes.
Community participation has been recognised as one of the key components for the successful implementation of primary health care (PHC) strategies, following the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), HFMCs are now widely considered as a mechanism to increase community participation in health through community representation. There is some research examining the implementation process, impact and factors affecting the effectiveness of HFMCs. Despite the documented evidence of the importance of factors such as adequate representation, links with wider community, and decision-making power, there is limited evidence about the nature of community representation and degree of decision making within HFMCs in the PHC setting, particularly in LMICs.
Qualitative interviews with 39 key informants were held to explore different aspects of community representation in HFMCs, and the influence of the HFMC on health facility decision-making processes. In addition, a facility audit at 22 facilities and review of HFMC meeting minutes at six health facilities were conducted.
There were Dalit (a marginalised caste) and Janajati (an ethnic group) representations in 77% and 100% of the committees, respectively. Likewise, there were at least two female members in each committee. However, the HFMC member selection process and decision making within the committees were influenced by powerful elites. The degree of participation through HFMCs appeared to be at the ‘Manipulation’ and ‘Informing’ stage of Arnstein’s ladder of participation. In conclusion, despite representation of the community on HFMCs, the depth of participation seems low. There is a need to ensure a democratic selection process of committee members; and to expand the depth of participation.
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