In this paper I argue that citizen involvement helped to promote a more equitable distribution of public health services in Brazil. This achievement involved a balance of contributions from social actors and health system managers in forging policy innovations and institutional arrangements that linked bottom up innovation with national policy leveraging and decentralized implementation. The paper briefly describes this cycle and its relation with the implementation of a national network of forums for citizen involvement in health policy, inquiring in more detail the conditions that favor the association between these forums and the policy making process. Our results do not corroborate the idea that deliberative arenas should be insulated from political passions; rather, they suggest that participation of mobilized social actors contributes to the effectiveness of these forums. This contribution happens both due to the knowledge that these actors bring about problems in the area and to their insertion in networks that connect forums to a wide set of social organizations and political, governmental, and health institutions, which in turn facilitate the dissemination and negotiation of the proposals and demands formulated by the forums. Despite these achievements the results also call attention to a slight increase in inequality in the distribution of basic services between the poorest regions.