Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All

When Bishops Discuss Health. Strategic Repositioning of Church Health Care

Since 2000 a number of successful meetings on health care and the church have been co-organized by Medicus Mundi International in cooperation with Episcopal Conferences in Sub-Saharan Africa. During these meetings the need for the church to adapt its approach to health in response to the ever-changing circumstances in which its healing ministry has to be exercised was reconfirmed.

Also during the year 2007 MMI contributed to some important conventions:

  • Crossroad towards Achieving Health Millennium Development Goals. Christian Health Associations’ Conference in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, 16-18 January 2007

Ten Anglophone African countries and the DR Congo were represented at this conference. Key note speakers analysed the reasons for the lack and mal-distribution of health staff and for the phenomenon of brain-drain, HIV/AIDS being one of them. Concrete proposals for incentives for retention of staff, for recruitment strategies and for maintaining the morale and cordial relationship among the stakeholders were shared as well as experiences on how to react politically. Dr. Edgar Widmer, representing the Medicus Mundi International Network at the Conference, informed the participants about the outcome of the Kampala, Cotonou and Bangui Bishops Working Conferences and about MMI’s efforts in promoting Strategic Repositioning of church-based health care facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa. He outlined that the outcome of these conferences would in the future strengthen the mandate given to the Christian Health Associations by the Episcopal Conferences. Other contributions and the conference declarations stressed the need to redefine the vision of churches in the healing ministry, the need to enforce contractual agreements (according to the Resolution adopted by WHO in 2003), the need of common policies for human resources in health, and the need to strengthen the dialogue between “owners” (e.g. Bishops) and “implementers” of church facilities.

  • Repositioning of the Catholic Health Care Ministry. Meeting of the  International Association of Catholic Health Care (AISAC) in Rome, 3-5 May 2007

Dr. Edgar Widmer represented Medicus Mundi International in this meeting of about 100 church representatives  from 45 Countries including some heads of catholic national coordinating offices from Africa such as Dr. Giusti from Kampala, Dr. Buckle from Ghana and Dr. Kigadye from Tanzania and several representatives from the Fatebenefratelli Hospital Congregation. They were given the opportunity to either present papers or to moderate group discussions.

The objective of the meeting was: “to ensure that the Church’s Pastoral presence in the ministry of catholic health care continues to be effective in the first decades of the 21st Century” while the expected outcome was that “the participants will have learnt from each other about the many challenges to the sustainability of the Ministry”. Working groups dealt with issues of identity, training of human resources, collaboration and co-ordination, solidarity with the poor vs. sustainability, health as right to be recognized and advocated for.

The final communiqué insists that the Mission of catholic health care must be stated clearly; people in catholic healthcare be integrally formed and trained to be up to the task; collaboration, co-ordination, networking within the Church and with other actors is actively pursued; concerns for sustainability and equity go hand in hand and poor are not excluded from catholic healthcare; advocacy for health as a right is pursued.

  • The Role of the Church in providing Social Services – for the promotion of Justice, Peace and Reconciliation with special attention to Health. Health Session of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) in Dar es Salaam, 25-26 June 2007

A series of presentations focusing on various aspects of the healing ministry, its sustainability, its ecumenical co-ordination, its co-ordination in the church at global, national and diocesan level, and the collaboration with the Government prepared the work of discernment through group work.

To complement the insights provided by the presentations, a reader containing selected documents from the AISAC-congress held in Rome during the month of May 2007 and statements from a series of Bishop meetings co-organized by MMI over the last years with the title “The Church and her involvement in the Healing Ministry in Africa” was provided by Dr. Edgar Widmer on behalf of Medicus Mundi International.

The documentation of this meeting including a statement of the Tanzanian Bishops is published on the MMI Website.


Dealing with church-based health institutions:
MMI looking into the future

In the coming years Medicus Mundi International will, in line with its Policy Plan 2010, continue to support churches and church-based health institutions in the process of strategic repositioning and to provide them with the tools to become effective and efficient actors within their respective countries.

Such in the near future MMI has been invited to co-organise a Health Session within the General Assembly of the Association of Central African Bishops Conferences (ACERAC) in July 2008 with from six countries. As for 2009 MMI has taken up contacts with the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CENCO), a country with about 134 dioceses and more than 190 catholic hospitals.

In order to define a working plan on its contributions to strategic repositioning of church based health care facilities, the MMI Executive Board asked some of the Network’s experts to set up a working group. The group is expected to come together for a constitutional meeting in May 2008.


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