The Health Assembly is “a process in which the relevant public and State agencies exchange their knowledge and cordially learn from each other through a participatory and systematically organized forum, leading to recommendations on Healthy Public Policies or Public Healthiness.”
It is a social innovation of Thailand, established under the National Health Act 2007. It is one of the most important social mechanisms to support the participatory, constructive and peaceful reconciliation among all stakeholders towards consensus agreement on specific Healthy Public Policy.
On the session to approve the agenda during the NHA, 10 or more constituencies may move to propose additional agenda. If agrees, it will be added to the 14 agenda items. Those agenda items that are not included in the 2008 NHA may be considered in the next NHA.
According to the Act, the National Health Assembly (NHA) shall be organized at least once a year. The National Health Assembly Organizing Committee (NHAOC) comprising of representatives from the state and other sectors has been established by the National Health Commission (NHC). At least 60 per cent of the NHAOC members have to come from non-state agencies. The rules and procedures for the National Health Assembly have been formulated by the NHAOC.
This extensive participatory approach through the NHA enables partners from all related sectors at all level to have ownership of the policies as well as building up their collective capacity. The resolutions or recommendations from the NHA will be submitted to the NHC which will consider taking appropriate actions to achieve the recommendations, including, if necessary, submitting to the Cabinet. Thus it is a combination of using both ‘soft’ social power and power of ‘wisdom’ and the ‘hard’ authoritative power to formulate and implement ‘healthy public policies’
The idea is to link the ‘political power’, the ‘social power’ and the ‘intellectual power’ to form ‘the triangle that moves the mountain’. This is a tripartite powerful strategy to achieve long term and sustainable implementation of participatory healthy public policies.
Challenges of the NHA include – 1) Does the representation of groups and networks reflect their real needs?; 2) How does the NHA move to ensure the implementation of the resolutions?; and 3) How to develop partner groups and networks in the health assembly process, especially in the areas of developing recommendations, considering resolutions and advocating their implementation?