Defining Social Accountability

Social Accountability has been defined by the World Health Organization as “the obligation [of medical schools] to direct their education, research and service activities towards addressing the priority health concerns of the community, region, and/or nation they have a mandate to serve. The priority health concerns are to be identified jointly by governments, health care organizations, health professionals and the  public.” (World Health Organization 1995).

Within a paradigm of social accountability, faculties of medicine are seen as partner academic institutions with communities, health administrators, policy makers, and health professionals, all working together with the goal of designing health systems based upon people’s needs.  This is expressed visually in the “Social Accountability Partners Pentagon” below:



Adapted from: World Health Organization. (2000). Towards Unity for Health: Challenges and opportunities for partnership in health development. Geneva: WHO. Available at: 

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