Federal legislation provided an opportunity for health planning to “catch up” with the expanding citizen participation movements of recent years. Although the literature on health planning is mounting, there as yet has been no comprehensive, systematic effort to inventory the status of participation on a national scale. This note reports on a national study of Health Systems Agencies designed to inventory the participation objectives and methods in use, identify major participants and obstacles, and analyze impacts and factors influencing practice in the field. Among the findings are that agencies have favored “safe” participation methods that satisfy minimum federal requirements and provide information and public relations without transfer of power to consumers; and have broadened the base of participation in planning without mobilizing consumers or reducing the dominance of providers, who remain the most active, organized, and influential participants.

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