Capacity Building in health is “the development of sustainable skills, organisational structures, resources and commitment to health improvement in health and other sectors, to prolong and multiply health gains many times over”. (Source)
This encompasses not only providing skills and awareness, but also creating channels, by means of partnerships, policy and leadership, through which this learning can be transferred into sustainable action. The UN Development Programme thus describes Capacity Building as the process of establishing both human and institutional capacity. (Source)
Capacity Building is an important instrument in tackling social health inequities by enhancing the capacity of organisations at national, regional and local levels to address the social determinants of the health inequalities. The objective of capacity building is to develop competency among health professionals, and to install institutional measures, such as funding and policy, that are conducive to such efforts.
WHO Europe thus mentions broad-ranging capacity building initiatives, including organisational, partnership and leadership development and resources allocation, as fundamental for ensuring sustainable and equity-promoting capacity in systems at organisational and individual levels (Source). Given these potentials, capacity building has become an inherent part of strategies of many municipal and local health services (Source).
The EU-funded “DETERMINE Consortium for action on the socioeconomic determinants of health”, brought together a wide range of stakeholders to define priority areas necessary for developing the capacity to effectively address social health inequalities (Source). As the figure below illustrates, the Consortium identified six areas, which include:
- Awareness raising and advocacy by collecting evidence on the given social health determinants, and formulating suitable advocacy strategies.
- Developing the information and evidence base in order to understand and analyse the dynamics of the social health inequities, and to share this knowledge across the organisations involved.
- Organisational development refers to an assessment of the capacities within the respective organisations with respect to tackling health inequities in order to identify the resources and structural changes required to effectively approach this challenge.
- Skills development, which entails creating and providing knowledge and training on the social determinants of health to professionals within the respective organisations.
- Partnership development and leadership, which is the process of examining how different organisations within the health sector, as well as externally, can collaborate and promote leadership on health inequities;
- Policy development entails conducting policy assessments in the area of social health inequalities, and exploring how such aspects could be implemented into policy. (Source)
Six priority areas of Capacity Building & Awareness Raising (DETERMINE project)
- Capacity Building to address the Social Determinants of Health, presentation at EU Expert Group on SDH by Stephan van den Broucke, University of Maastricht (2009)