The what, why and how of health and development

New “health movement” is needed to defeat HIV, AIDS and TB

In order to put an end to major health issues such as HIV, AIDS and TB there needs to be a “health movement” that focuses on learning from local communities, according to the Co-ordinator of a global health charity.

Ian Campbell is a doctor who worked in Africa in the eighties during the AIDS epidemic onset. Now, he is one of the lead doctors of a charity Affirm, which works to support the expansion of local responses to HIV and other critical issues.

Ian believes that many development organisations focus too much on the problem of poverty and in doing so, do not utilise the strengths of local communities to tackle problems themselves.

“The problem if you think about poverty and deprivation all of the time is that these organisations tend to work with a certain culture of ‘fixing it up’,” Ian explains.

“The language of intervention comes up. The assumption is made that this is a necessary state of play in order to help make a difference to health issues that is stet in the context of poverty. Therefore the prevailing assumption is that organisations have something that can be delivered.

“With this thinking, you forget local people have strengths for response. They can make relationship connections. They can care together, they can work neighbourhood to neighbourhood, they can , with a little help, manage anti-vitriol viral treatment.”

According to Ian, allocating just 10% of time and budgets in global health programmes to learning from local communities is necessary to tackle critical health issues.

“The health systems in most countries never have time to go and learn about the real issues. I’m saying that they have to. If you want to see a transformation in the way we do health and development the organisational culture has to give space for learning,” he says.

“Learn from them by asking the questions in the right way. Not, what are your needs but what are your concerns. Not what could we bring in but what are your dreams or hopes? And what can you do about yourselves that we can’t do?”

Ian believes that no matter how much is put in as an intervention unless that is that community movement side it is not going to work. However, there aren’t many organisations that, like Affirm, work with this community led mindset. Ian believes that the World Health Organisation aren’t doing enough to promote this message and in order to make serious steps forward in global health they need to lead the way by making this the focus of their approach.

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