On June 1st, Secretary Clinton spoke in Oslo and issued a challenge to the world to begin moving toward sustainable, country-owned health systems. Her vision of country ownership included the critical involvement of all of the partners working in-country, including the faith community, who are critical to the success of health systems in the developing world - providing up to 70% of health services in some nations. To enhance the U.S. Government’s alliance with the faith community, I have had the great pleasure to address two different gatherings of members of the faith community recently.
On Tuesday, June 5th, I attended the final day of the Catholic Health Association’s annual assembly – their Global Summit. I was able to meet and talk with a number of incredible people from organizations that have made valuable impact in all areas of global health. This group is focused on and dedicated to building collaboration between Catholic organizations to increase the impact on the ground. I know that the information shared and connections made at the summit will result in even more effective interventions for the health of people worldwide.
Catholic groups have been providing care to those in need around the world for centuries. The Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. I’ve had the honor of speaking with CMMB on a few occasions since coming to work at GHI, and I am always impressed. In 2010 alone, CMMB trained over 1,200 medical professionals and community health workers, cared for more than 110,000 people living with HIV worldwide, and their maternal and child health programs provided more than 16,000 young children and nearly 80,000 pregnant women with primary healthcare.
I also had the distinct pleasure to attend a part of Christian Connections for International Health’s annual conference in Arlington, Virginia last Sunday. At the conference, I participated in a panel with World Vision Vice President for Advocacy, Adam Russell Taylor discussing opportunities and imperatives for the faith community in international health. The conference brought people from around the world together to use information sharing, networking, and advocacy. CCIH members have been tireless advocates on behalf of global health through letters and briefings for Congress. They go the extra mile to ensure that the good work done overseas is understood and recognized by the legislators and decision-makers at home.
It is such a pleasure and great honor to spend time with these dedicated people and have the opportunity to express deep gratitude for the enormous contribution that they are continuing to make in global health. The faith community’s contributions to global health truly cannot be overstated.
Faith based organizations (FBOs) are particularly effective in their work in global health in part because of the unique capabilities and resources that they bring to the table. FBOs at the UN Special General Assembly on HIV/AIDS in 2001 explained that FBOs utilize four particular resources in their fight against HIV/AIDS, and these qualities easily apply to all aspects of global health. First, they have reach. FBOs have been working in communities all over the world for hundreds of years. They maintain ties with remote communities and utilize channels of communication that are not available to other groups. Second, since FBOs have pre-existing facilities and a history of providing services, they have a combination of experience and capacity that position them ideally for future service. Third, FBOs have a spiritual mandate inherent in their mission statement that allows them to provide consistent emotional and spiritual aid as well as help for physical ailments. And finally, FBOs’ continuous presence in remote communities for centuries ensures that their commitment will not wane or waver.
I look forward to a robust and enduring partnership between the U.S. Government and the faith community in our global health work. My recent experiences with the Catholic Health Assembly and the Christian Connections for International Health have reaffirmed my belief that the Secretary’s vision of effective country ownership and sustainable health systems can only be achieved through strong partnerships with the faith community.