Summit emphasizes importance of faith-based global aid

July 1, 2012


PHILADELPHIA — Organizations worldwide can partner successfully to create sustainable points of access to health services in communities in the developing world.

At the 2012 Global Summit here, more than a dozen experts in international aid explained how that can be done, and highlighted ministry members that are playing a vital role in such work. At the second annual post-assembly Global Summit hosted by CHA, leaders from Catholic health care, Catholic Relief Services, and governmental agencies heralded the work of Catholic organizations, saying the ministry has been a strategic partner in meeting the health care needs of people in developing countries.

Lois Quam, executive director of the U.S. Global Health Initiative, said the faith community — including ministry members — has excelled in building sustainable aid programs around the world, including through health systems strengthening.

"The systems that you and your colleagues have built in communities around the world provide as much as 70 percent of the health care in some countries," said Quam, who is based at the U.S. Department of State where she reports to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. "These systems are the building blocks for healthy nations and communities for years to come. They are a part of your legacy, your gift to the people who will use them to create better, healthier lives for their families."

President Barack Obama launched the Global Health Initiative in 2009 to better coordinate U.S. foreign aid intended to strengthen health systems in developing nations. Quam noted that GHI provides new opportunities for collaboration between the administration, Catholic health care and others.

"If we can partner effectively together — governments, the faith community, civil society and donors — to integrate and link services, together we can create a sustainable system that aligns with the priorities of that country and empowers them to take responsibility for the health of their people," she said.

Strengthening health systems
Strengthening Faith-Based Health Systems, a significant Catholic collaborative partnership involving CRS, CHA and its members and the University of Notre Dame, was formally launched at the Global Summit. Through the initiative, CRS will channel its own resources and those of its partners — including funds, technical expertise and staff — to faith-based health care facilities in developing countries so that they can "scale up" and provide more effective services. The CRS-led initiative will help local providers assess unmet needs and plan to meet those needs, connect Catholic and other-than-Catholic, faith-based providers to achieve more influence, and help secure government and private financial support.

Michele Broemmelsiek, chief of party for CRS' AIDSRelief Consortium, and colleague Shannon Senefeld, global director of health and HIV services, explained that after consultation with CRS country programs around the world, the project has selected six pilot countries for the initiative: Ghana, Honduras, India, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia.

Medical surplus recovery
Lori Warrens, the executive director of the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations, and Ismael Cordero, the author of the World Health Organization's guide for equipment donation, told the audience of more than 100 ministry leaders and representatives of nongovernmental organizations that it is important that they donate only quality, non-expired supplies and working equipment to health missions in the developing world.

Warrens and Cordero also discussed how difficult it is for countries that receive surplus donations to hire and retain biomedical engineers who can install and repair the donated equipment. Oftentimes people who are trained to do this job, or who are sent to the country to fulfill this need, end up being hired away. Cordero said that when recipient countries express concern about this "brain drain," "I ask them if it is better to have them train someone and then that person leave, or if they have someone who is not trained stay."

CHA released a new tool, First Do No Harm: Assessing & Selecting High Quality Medical Surplus Recovery Organizations at the summit. Ministry members can use the tool to evaluate the operations of any medical surplus recovery organization that they contribute to or are considering for a partnership.

Theology and mission work
Sr. Doris Gottemoeller, RSM, senior vice president of mission and values integration at Catholic Health Partners, Cincinnati, provided a moral and theological reflection on international outreach.

The ministry should target its aid to programs and areas where it will be possible to bring continuity and potential for future development, said Sr. Gottemoeller, and it must be sure to substantively involve the local population in programs and initiatives.

She closed with inspiration from Pope John Paul II, who said, "(Solidarity) then is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all."

The medical surplus recovery organization assessment guide, two new videos — on medical surplus recovery and the mission imperative of international outreach — that debuted at the summit and a new "International Outreach: Getting Started Guide" are available online.


Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2012 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.