This article analyzes the efforts of health care consumers to organize independently of, but with reference to, the Health Systems Agency in east central Illinois. Beginning with a tactical investigation which disclosed a lack of effective public participation, consumers formed an organization which conducted a series of community forums to provide information and generate publicity about local health care issues, sponsored training workshops for consumer leaders and HSA board members, worked to delay the final designation of the agency, and organized to take control of the local HSA board. They recruited a large number of new HSA members, enlisted provider and consumer candidates to run for the board, conducted a vigorous election campaign, and finally claimed a majority of seats. Among the conclusions drawn are that health care planning cannot be considered apart from a context of politics, and that community organization is important for consumers wishing to exercise power.

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