A new Anglican Health and Community Network – AHCN – was launched today (7 April) - World Health Day. The creation of a new health network was endorsed by the Anglican Consultative Council at its meeting in Hong Kong in 2019; and since then a group of convenors have been working to bring it to fruition.
The new network was approved by the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee at its meeting in February. It is the Health and Community Network in recognition that Anglican mission in health takes place in communities as well as in hospitals and clinics and that a complex social, community and health system underpins health in many different ways.
The network has three co-convenors: the Church of England's Bishop of Hertford, Michael Beasley, is a former epidemiologist at Imperial College, London, he has extensive international experience in issues of health, nutrition and child development; The Bishop of Namibia, Luke Pato, is a champion of national and regional initiatives for malaria elimination and a lead member and advocate in the Isdell Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative; and Dr Janice Tsang, a specialist in Medical Oncology and the Honorary Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong.
“For more than a year the attention of the whole world has been primarily focused on health and healthcare, as countries across the globe respond to the Covid-19 pandemic”, the Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Will Adam, said. “And during that time, the value and appreciation we place on healthcare workers has also increased, as we rightly recognise the incredible hard work they have done – particularly those on the front line in critical care – to support patients with Coronavirus and other illnesses.
“The new Anglican Health and Community Network – launching on World Health Day – will support Anglicans working across the world in health care, whether in clinical settings or in the community. It has long been recognised that, in many parts of the world, Churches are best placed to reach ‘the last mile’ in hard to reach communities – whether it is in disseminating disease prevention education; or organising community clinics.
“And so on this World Health Day, I am delighted that the new Anglican Health and Community Network is launching, with the backing of the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee, to Connect, prepare and equip Anglicans around the world to provide health care, accompany the sick, and advocate for equitable health-care, combining trust in science and hope in God.”
Bishop Michael Beasley, one of the co-convenors, said: “Anglicans around the world contribute extensively to the health and wellbeing of the places where they live, work and worship. In many places, this is through running hospitals and health centres. Just as much is the role that Anglicans play as trusted members of their communities, able to engage with local health issues so that solutions and ways forward can be found.
“As someone with a background in public health I’ve been enormously encouraged to see the work that local church members and churches are doing in different places to contribute to this work – from supporting mental health in my own area of Hertfordshire, to responding to the outbreak of Ebola that took place in DRC, to supporting efforts to eliminate malaria in Angola and elsewhere in Southern Africa.
“The aim of the Anglican Health and Community Network will be to enable experiences of understanding and everyday practice such as these to be shared, learned from, built on and grown. Our hope is that the work of Anglicans in health around the world can be strengthened and supported.”
Another co-convenor, Bishop Luke Pato, said: “There is an African proverb which says: ‘if you want to walk fast, walk alone; but if you want to walk far, walk with others’.
“The decision by the Anglican Communion to initiate the Anglican Health and Community Network affirms this African proverb. One of the many lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic is that we need one another at local and international level to support each other and to exchange experiences.
“We need one another to exchange data – theological, pastoral and spiritual. There is nothing painful and uncharacteristic of the essence and fibre of the Church like lonely suffering and death. It is my sincere hope that this Network will among other things strive to achieve this goal”.
More information about the new Anglican Health and Community Network can be found on the website of the Anglican Alliance: anglicanalliance.org; or by contacting the AHCN co-ordinator, Dr Sally Smith, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.