Global Health Summit participants urged to support poverty-focused international aid

July 1, 2013


ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ministry leaders from U.S. Catholic health care and representatives of several global health organizations who convened for CHA's third Global Summit were challenged to increase and improve mission outreach activities in the developing world.

The daylong meeting, "Living Mission in a Changing World Ð Providing Healing Without Hurting," was convened on the final day of the 2013 Catholic Health Assembly here. Speakers offered insights into why some equally well-intentioned medical mission programs providing direct medical care, medical equipment, or disaster relief fail, while other efforts succeed. They reminded the audience of about 100 ministry leaders that if global health mission work is done right, the donors eventually work themselves out of a job as recipient communities or host countries gain skills and resources.

Pan American Health Organization Director Carissa F. Etienne noted in a keynote address that services delivered by private and non-governmental organizations are not always of high quality. Poor people do not deserve poor care, she said. "Good health is rooted in equality, in universality, in solidarity and in all persons being able to experience their human rights."

Etienne called it a "travesty" that the average life expectancy in some of the poorest developing nations is 20 years shorter than it is in the healthiest of economically developed nations. "We know what the solutions are, and know what the problems are, yet are unable to get the solutions to help children and all those persons in need," she said.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed in September 2000, commits world leaders to make progress by 2015 toward eight goals related to combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women. "A large part of the world's population live in nations that fall far short of the 2015 goals," she said.

Etienne said she wanted to learn about the global health projects of U.S.-based Catholic health care organizations and how her organization can partner with them in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"I think you have long-standing ties and community links, and you tend to develop sustainable and culturally sensitive programs that more specifically target the very poor," said Etienne, "but, I want to challenge you more."

She then issued challenges on two topics, Catholic education and community health outreach. "When did access to education provided by the Catholic Church become so expensive? Have we lost our way? Aren't we supposed to be the church that seeks to help the poor?" she asked. "Something has happened in education and I hope that it never happens in health care that is provided by the Catholic Church."

She challenged Catholic health care leaders to extend community-based, non-hospital services. "Until you can go out into the community, seek the needs out — walk among the people and show that you have health care workers among the people — you will not be fulfilling your God-given mission," she said.

In his keynote address, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, quoted Pope John XXIII's encyclical, Pacem in Terris: On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity and Liberty, and said that in the 50-year-old document, the pope referenced the growing interdependence of national economies and the emergence of one global economy. The pope wrote that "the social progress, order, security and peace of each country are necessarily connected with the social progress, order, security and peace of all other countries."

Bishop Pates told the Global Summit audience, "The interdependence among nations that Pope John describes when it serves the universal common good of the whole human family is another name for global solidarity."

He urged Catholic health care leaders to work together, and cited as an example the collaboration between CHA and Catholic Relief Services to build a Catholic hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to replace the facility destroyed in the 2010 earthquake; to expand educational opportunities for clinicians in the developing world; and to advocate for the needs of the poor throughout the world.

"I urge you to join us in advocating poverty-focused international assistance," Bishop Pates said. He thanked health ministry members for their work "to build a healthier world in the name and the spirit of our Lord Jesus."

A highlight video from the Global Summit and information about CHA's international outreach activities and resources can be found at


Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

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