Owing to changes in political systems, the number of non-governmental organisations worldwide has increased substantially since 1980. The influence of civil society on health and health care depends on the recognition of its role as a partner in primary health care, on its success in the scalling up of activities, on its cooperation with the State and business sector, and on networking. In the event of health-sector reforms, civil society should focus on equity and justice, and advocate health as a public responsibility. The impact on health would increase if medical personnel Joined forces with civil society and if medical schools added public speaking, networking, and lobbying to their agenda. The trend is that an increasing number of agents are getting involved in the promotion of health.