More than a dozen long established and cherished mission hospitals are unlikely to survive the next decade unless health policies and practices change in many African and Asian countries.
The warning was issued by Anglican mission agency USPG, at an event supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The event, at Lambeth Palace, saw the launch of a new health policy that could save the hospitals.
Hospitals and clinics in many African and Asian countries are often over-stretched, sustained by declining foreign donations and lacking drugs and facilities.
Under USPG's new health programme, Hands on Health, health facilities are being thrown a lifeline. The programme will see local churches bridging the gap often felt between village communities and health facilities. Hands on Health acts as a catalyst enabling local communities to appreciate and act on their own strengths. In working together all stakeholders can address concerns, share ideas and work on solutions.
As a result, hospitals will have a sharper focus, communities will have more say in their health needs, and health will improve due to a greater emphasis on prevention.
Speaking at the USPG launch event at Lambeth Palace the Archbishop Rowan Williams commented: 'It is easy to say that prevention is better than cure, but it takes courage and deep collaboration to turn this into a reality, transforming the health of communities. USPG is building on its considerable history in supporting mission hospitals and health clinics with an innovative approach that is very exciting.'
David Evans, USPG's Director for Health, said: 'The basic situation is that excessive demand, with preventable sickness, means hospitals in developing countries are increasingly over-stretched and struggling to stay afloat. Something needs to be done.
Community facilitator Elvis Simamvwa (right) meets villagers
Photo Credit: USPG/Leah Gordon
'The new USPG approach is bringing communities into the centre of the health equation. Through local churches, communities and hospitals can enter into dialogue leading to practical action. This is health as a joint enterprise. As a result, hospital services will become more responsive and communities will have better access to the services they need.
'At the same time, there will be a greater emphasis on prevention through community based healthcare, which will help to reduce demand on hospitals.
'It means a strategic re-balancing of the health equation. By strengthening community-based preventative health work, cherished mission hospitals will be given a new lease of life. The hospitals' specialism in diagnosis and cure remains key, but greater focus on appropriate hospital based services will make institutions more sustainable.'
USPG has launched the work in Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Notes to Editors
USPG: Anglicans in World Mission is a major mission agency working throughout the world and founded in 1701. www.uspg.org.uk