Health Cooperatives


A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. The cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice: 1. Voluntary and Open Membership; 2. Democratic Member Control (one member, one vote); 3. Member Economic Participation; 4. Autonomy and Independence; 5. Education, Training and Information; 6. Co-operation Among Cooperatives; and 7. Concern for Community.

Based on coop principles and values, people create different forms/models of health care cooperatives. One of the most known model is the user/client-owned model. User or client-owned health cooperatives are set up by individuals in the same community to help them meet their own health care needs. Members of the coop determine goals and practices, thereby enabling ordinary citizens to empower themselves with respect to health care. Members-owners each contribute shares of capital and subsequently contribute to operating costs, usually by prepaid premiums and appoint managers to negotiate contracts with health insurance and health care providers. Often these cooperatives purchase and operate hospitals and other facilities, and hire professional and other staff. Services range from simple preventive care and basic insurance to advanced curative and rehabilitative interventions. There are also cooperatives owned by health professionals and pharmacy coops. In fact, cooperatives are being used as the model in the social economy and the delivery of a wide range of social services around the world.

Community Health Centres that follow the cooperative model are non-profit organisations, owned and operated by the members who use their services. Members elect a board of directors who govern the centre. Each member has one vote, regardless of the number of shares held by the member. Members and users are involved in defining the centre’s mission, mandates, goals, and the types of services offered. With the cooperative model, community participation can be facilitated through Board representation, committees of the Board, development of needs assessment, satisfaction surveys, fundraising, volunteer involvement etc. Community Health Centres that are not cooperatives provide similar programs and services as a cooperative, but the level of community membership and control is not as extensive.

For more on Health care cooperatives visit:

— Prepared by Franklin Assoumou Ndong, B.A., M.Sc., Sherbrooke (Québec), Canada, September 2004.

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3 Responses to “Health Cooperatives”

  1. 1Ricci Robson

    Looking to form a health cooperative in South Florida/Broward County to address mental health and recovery/substance abuse treatment needs. Anyone who can point me in the direction of applicable information, funding sources etc., please contact me.

  2. 2bronxdoc

    Thank you for this suggestion.

    The URL for the Berkeley Free Clinic is: The Berkeley clinic is run as a cooperative and is part of the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives at I don’t know how common the cooperative structure is among free clinics.

    For more information on Free Clinics you can visit the National Association of Free Clinics at: In the Bronx, the Einstein medical students have organized the ECHO free clinic. The URL is:

    Matt Anderson

  3. 3Oron Frenkel

    Perhaps you should include the Berkeley Free Clinic on this list, one of the very few health care collectives in the country.

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